Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has agreed to appear before lawmakers and face questions on his secret hospitalization later this month.
Austin will appear at a hearing hosted by the House Armed Services Committee on Feb. 29, according to the committee.
“The Department of Defense has confirmed to the House Armed Services Committee that Secretary Austin will testify before on the Committee on February 29th on his failure to disclose his hospitalization,” House Armed Services Committee spokesperson Justine Tripathi said.
The Committee called Austin to testify after the defense secretary was hospitalized last month for prostate cancer treatment without public notice and without informing the White House.
Austin, 70, told reporters he apologized directly to President Biden for not giving advance notice of his condition or hospital stay, acknowledging, “I did not handle this right.”
“I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people,” he said at a press conference last Thursday.
Austin insisted there were “no gaps in authorities and no risk to the department’s command and control” during his hospitalization, which came at a time of crisis in the Middle East. The day he returned to work in person at the Pentagon, Jan. 29, was one day after a drone strike by Iran-backed militants killed three U.S. service members and injured at least 40 others in Jordan at a post near the Syrian border.
Fox News’ national security correspondent Jennifer Griffin noted that during the time that Austin was in the intensive care unit, there was a drone strike carried out against an Iraqi leader of a militia.
The unannounced absence has led to calls from some lawmakers for Austin to resign, but he has said he will not do so.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., called on Austin to testify before the committee in a Jan. 18 letter and answer questions including whether the defense secretary instructed his staff not to inform the president of his hospitalization.
Austin’s office said the Department of Defense provided the House Armed Services Committee three letters in a “good-faith effort” to respond to the panel while “recognizing that there is an internal 30-day review underway, and the DOD Inspector General is conducting his own review.”
Austin returned to work in a virtual capacity on Jan. 5 while still hospitalized, even authorizing airstrikes on Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis. Despite being admitted to Walter Reed upon Jan.1, the Pentagon didn’t inform the public, press or Congress until Jan. 5.
Officials also acknowledged that the White House had not been informed about Austin’s hospitalization until Jan. 4.
Fox News Danielle Wallace, Louis Casiano and Aishah Hasnie contributed to this report.
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