Lawmakers set to question Austin on decision to hide cancer diagnosis

by Vern Evans

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will appear before House lawmakers on Thursday to answer questions about his cancer diagnosis and his decision not to inform key administration officials about his health status before and after he was hospitalized in early January.

The hearing, in front of the House Armed Services Committee, comes after several chamber lawmakers have already called for Austin’s resignation over the episode.

Austin, 70, was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 1 after developing a urinary tract infection from complications related to prostate cancer surgery on Dec. 22. Senior military leaders were not informed of his condition until several days later, and White House officials — including President Joe Biden — were not made aware the defense secretary was hospitalized until Jan. 5.

Earlier this month, acknowledged communication mistakes in his handling of the incident and said his decisions were “more about privacy than secrecy.”

White House officials and many congressional Democrats have offered their support for him in recent weeks, but congressional Republicans have said the incident raises significant questions about the security of the military’s chain of command.

Tuesday, Feb. 27

Senate Homeland Security — 10 a.m. — 562 Dirksen
Russian Technology Theft
Outside experts will discuss the use of American technology in Russian weapons being used against Ukraine.

Senate Foreign Relations — 2:15 p.m. — 419 Dirksen
Red Sea Security Issues
State and Defense officials will testify on security threats in Yemen and the Red Sea.

Senate Health — Time to be determined — S127 Capitol
Nominations
Senators will consider the nomination of Julie Su to be the Secretary of Labor and Stephen Ravas to be inspector general of the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Wednesday, Feb. 28

Senate Armed Services — 9:30 a.m. — 216 Hart
Industrial Base Personnel
Outside experts will testify on staffing and personnel management issues in the private-sector industrial base.

Senate Foreign Relations — 10 a.m. — 419 Dirksen
Iran Proxy Networks
Outside experts will testify on the threats posed by Iran proxy networks in the Middle East.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs — 3:30 p.m. — 418 Russell
VA Cemeteries
Department officials will testify on current operations and upcoming challenges with VA cemetery services.

Senate Armed Services — 3:30 p.m. — 222 Russell
Blast Exposure Care
Defense Department officials will testify on treatment and long-term care for blast exposure injuries.

Senate Agriculture — Time to be determined — 328A Russell
Department planning
Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack will discuss the agency’s needs and challenges for the year ahead.

Thursday, Feb. 29

House Armed Services — 10 a.m. — 2118 Rayburn
SecDef Health Issues
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will testify on issues surrounding his cancer diagnosis and lack of communication regarding his health to key administration officials.

House Homeland Security — 10 a.m. — 310 Cannon
Maritime Port Cybersecurity
Coast Guard officials will testify on cyber threats facing U.S. port facilities.

House Oversight — 2 p.m. — 2154 Rayburn
Cybersecurity
Lawmakers will discuss whether the General Services Administration is complying with purchasing restrictions, particularly as it relates to Chinese goods.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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