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Did Lloyd Austin skip Military Studies 101?

Military recruits learn early on in basic training they alone are responsible for their own behavior. The need to show up for morning formations at the appointed time is drilled into them. If a recruit is late, there should be a darn good excuse why. Trying to provide a “foreseeable” circumstance as an excuse for missing a formation is seldom acceptable as recruits are advised they should have anticipated that which is foreseeable, allowing for additional time. This is simply Military Studies 101.

But even when a good excuse exists, such as an unforeseeable non-emergency surgery, a second duty arises. The recruit is obligated to advise one’s seniors ahead of time in order to avoid being placed into an unauthorized absence status. This is mandated not only so the absence is excused but to ensure command assets are not wasted on searching for one designated as missing without explanation. No recruit ever graduates from boot camp unaware of these very basic responsibilities.

Yet, somehow, the man sitting at the very top of the military command chain, a former four-star U.S. Army general with 41 years of military service and the current Secretary of Defense (SecDef), Lloyd Austin, failed to do both. His immediate superior, President Joe Biden, was not informed that his SecDef was missing, as Austin failed to tell him. While Austin did apparently take leave, the White House had no idea it was to undergo surgery – a time during which he obviously would be incapacitated and unable to be responsive should his counsel be needed.

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If there is any good news to come out about this lack of reporting responsibility, it is that Austin’s whereabouts were only unknown for four days – insufficient time for him to find his photo popping up as a missing “milk carton kid!”

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But with the numerous threats America faces today – threats capable of turning hot very quickly – it is incomprehensible for a SecDef to allow himself to be incommunicado – with both the president as well as his subordinates not knowing same. At a time countries like Russia (threatening to use nukes), North Korea (threatening a “showdown” with the U.S.), Iran (threatening the U.S. for its threats against the Houthis for their Red Sea attacks on shipping) and China (threatening “serious consequences” for the U.S. exercising its international right to navigate waters China claims as its own as well as threatening to retake Taiwan) harbor no friendliness toward us, Biden could well have needed immediate access to his SecDef – only then to discover he was either unreachable or incapacitated due to his surgery.

Austin did have a good excuse for being unavailable. He had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. But the surgery was elective, enabling him easily to meet his responsibility to notify the president and Congress that he would be out of action and then ensuring arrangements were made for his deputy secretary to cover for him in his absence. The importance of this was underscored as Austin developed a urinary tract infection that prolonged his stay in the hospital. His defenders have suggested he had a right to privacy, ignoring the fact he surrendered that when he took the oath of office. And even the Chinese mocked Biden for being “inadequate” and his administration for being “disorderly” based on the “chaos” created by Austin.

(As a side note, we can only wonder whether prior to being operated on if Austin requested a surgeon who was a product of Biden’s DEI policies or preferred the best surgeon available.)

Austin did transfer some of his responsibilities to Deputy SecDef Kathleen Hicks. However, not only was she on vacation in Puerto Rico, she was not even given the reason for the transfer. It is simply inexcusable that such secrecy was draped around Austin’s hospitalization without steps being taken to ensure an alternative chain of command was in place.

Austin did issue a statement after the media raised its concerns, stating in part: “I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better.” Just like we saw after our disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan, leaving billions of dollars of military equipment for the Taliban with no effort made to destroy it beforehand, Austin accepted no responsibility for his actions.

Some legal experts have suggested Austin may well have violated the law by failing to advise Biden about his absence. That law, like the recruit above who knows he will be missing a formation, mandates that absences by top-level executives be reported to Congress and identifying who will be in charge during that absence. The Pentagon has indicated it is opening an investigation into the matter. But this is just one more incident that makes voters wonder about Biden’s senior officials being qualified to serve. Indications are that it was Austin alone who decided to keep the news of his surgery quiet.

Former President Donald Trump has called for Austin to be fired immediately for dereliction of duty. Even Democrat Rep. Chris Deluzio of Pennsylvania, who is a member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued a statement that Austin should resign. He noted on social media that he had “lost trust” in the SecDef and had concerns about its possible impact upon the “chain of command.”

Meanwhile, Biden, acknowledging Austin had a lapse in judgment by failing to let the president know about his surgery, says he has no intention to fire him. However, the fact that we live in a time in which we face such complex threat realities while being led by leaders incapable of grasping the simplicities of their own responsibilities in office is not overly encouraging.

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