Defense Secretary Austin is 'actively involved and engaged' while hospitalized

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US Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin testifies before a House Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan at the Rayburn House Office building on Capitol Hill on September 29, 2021 in Washington, DC. 

Olivier Douliery | Afp | Getty Images

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is still hospitalized following doctors’ advice, but he’s “actively involved and engaged,” according to national security spokesperson John Kirby.

Appearing on CBS’s “Face the Nation” on Sunday, Kirby said that Austin took part in discussions planning strikes on Iran-allied Houthi militants in Yemen several days ago.

“It’s also important for people to remember that the cabinet officials don’t have to sit and talk every single day to make every decision,” Kirby said. “A lot of the work that gets done in national security is done at the staff level.”

Austin has been treated at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center since Jan. 1, following complications from a surgery nearly two weeks earlier to treat prostate cancer. Kirby said Sunday that physical therapy is part of the reason doctors have kept Austin in the hospital.

The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospital admittance to the White House or the public has stirred up controversy, although President Joe Biden is standing by Austin.

For two days, Pentagon officials also failed to tell Austin’s second-in-command that he transferred his authority over to her while he was in the intensive care unit.

“The Pentagon’s investigating this, and we’ll see what comes out of that, but that is not the way that the process is supposed to work,” Kirby said.