Lloyd Austin's Deputy Ran The Pentagon From The Beach, Didn't Cancel Vacation

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by Tyler Durden
Thursday, Jan 11, 2024 - 06:45 PM

Amid growing pressure on the Biden administration in the wake of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin going MIA for nearly four days as he was in the ICU of Walter Reed hospital but without telling anyone at the White House (as basic long-standing national security protocol would require), new details have been unearthed which reveal the situation to have been far worse (and comical) than previously known.

Not only was there no one officially at the helm of the Department of Defense at a moment Iran-backed militias targeted US bases in the Iraq-Syria region, but Austin's #2 was "running the Pentagon" from the beach, apparently.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Image source: DOD

Austin and his staffers have tried to paint a picture that Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was basically running things. But while Hicks is said to have been tasked with "some duties" during Austin's absence - it remains that she was on vacation and didn't so much as know that her boss was out of commission.

According to fresh details in The Wall Street Journal, Hicks was literally on a beach in Puerto Ricoand what's worse is that she stayed on vacation even as Austin was laid up:

On the evening of Monday, Jan. 1, Austin experienced severe abdominal pain and was rushed via ambulance to Walter Reed, where he was put in the intensive care unit, the Pentagon said. Once there, doctors identified a urinary tract infection and abdominal fluid collections in Austin, and he remained in the ICU for several days. 

On the day Austin returned to the hospital, Kelly Magsamen, his chief of staff, was sick with the flu, and her deputy was out, U.S. officials said, a factor that contributed to the delayed communications.

The following day, Jan. 2, Hicks, who was on a beach in Puerto Rico with her family, was informed by the Pentagon that she needed to assume some of Austin’s duties. The request was a surprise since Hicks had planned her vacation well in advance and normally, if she was to assume the defense chief’s duties, she should be in Washington to perform them.

The comedy of errors was compounded from there. It would be hard to make this up...

The communications team which routinely travels with her, even while on leave, prepared for an elevated role while at the hotel, which required her to stick close to her communications suite, forgoing walks on the beach. She began to make some routine operational and management decisions in Austin’s stead, and was “fully authorized and ready to support the president on other military matters, should the need have arisen,” a Pentagon official said. 

So Hicks, who found herself in charge (somewhat unknowingly perhaps) of the world's most powerful military, and at a moment the US is engaged in several hotspots from Ukraine to Syria to the Red Sea, decided that she must sacrifice walks on the sandy beaches.

During that very time, the Pentagon was engaged in some high-risk aerial operations against Iran-linked groups in Iraq. The WSJ underscores there was nothing about that week that was mere "business as usual": 

For two more days, information about Austin’s condition was kept to the small group of aides. 

In the meantime, the U.S. conducted a strike in Baghdad targeting a leader of an Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, which Austin had approved earlier. Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder briefed reporters on Thursday, Jan. 4, and made no mention of the secretary’s whereabouts. 

Hicks continued carrying out some duties while she stayed in Puerto Rico, and the White House remained in the dark for most of the day.

That very strike has triggered Iraq government efforts to boot American troops from the country to gain steam and popularity in the region.

But important to emphasize is that the person who was effectively acting secretary of defense stayed on her vacation, in a posh hotel room, only "foregoing walks" - as we are assured. More broadly, there was a window of days where it seems that simply no one was actually in charge of the US armed forces.