White House launching review of Cabinet protocols after defense secretary’s secret hospitalization: memo

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The White House is launching a review of Cabinet protocols for delegating authority in the wake of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent secret hospitalization following a procedure to treat prostate cancer, according to a memo obtained by Fox News. 

The memo from White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients is addressed to Cabinet secretaries and directs departments and agencies to ‘submit their agency-specific delegation of authority protocols by Friday, January 12, 2024, to the Office of Cabinet Affairs.’

‘The White House is conducting a review of agency protocols for a delegation of authority from Cabinet Members,’ the memo states. ‘The purpose of this memo is to direct your agencies to submit your existing protocols for a delegation of authority to the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs, and to ensure an updated process for such delegations in the interim. The Office of Cabinet Affairs will convey these protocols to the White House Chief of Staff.’

The memo says that while the review is ‘ongoing,’ Cabinet agencies ‘must ensure’ they follow procedures ‘in the event that a delegation of authority is required.’

The memo directs the agencies to ‘notify the Offices of Cabinet Affairs and White House Chief of Staff in the event of a delegation of authority or potential delegation.’ 


It also directs agencies to ‘document in writing that the delegation of authority is in effect.’ 

The memo comes after it was revealed that Austin was hospitalized for days without notifying the White House. The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that Austin went under general anesthesia for a prostatectomy on Dec. 22, 2023.

‘His prostate cancer was detected early, and his prognosis is excellent,’ Walter Reed Hospital said. Austin was on leave at the time of the procedure, and he returned home the next day.

The hospital said Austin started to experience ‘severe pain’ on Jan. 1 and was admitted to the intensive care unit ICU, where the medical team treated a urinary tract infection. Austin was also treated for a backup of his small intestines with a tube placed through his nose to drain his stomach. Walter Reed said it anticipates him making a ‘full recovery although this can be a slow process.’

Austin did not notify the chairman of the Joint Chiefs or his deputy until the following day. The White House and President Biden were unaware until Jan. 4, and Congress and the press were notified on Jan. 5. 

Calls for Biden to remove Austin from his post and for Austin to resign have been mounting, but the White House said Austin will remain in his post.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said this week ‘there are no plans for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job and continue in the leadership that he’s been … demonstrating.’ 

Department of Defense press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder told Fox News Digital that Austin doesn’t have any plans to leave his post.

‘Secretary Austin has no plans to resign,’ Ryder said. ‘He remains focused on conducting his duties as secretary of defense in defense of our nation.’

But Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont., plans to introduce articles of impeachment against Austin on Tuesday afternoon. 

Austin is no longer in the ICU, but it is unclear when he will be released from the hospital. 

Austin and Biden authorized the Jan. 4 strike in Baghdad before Austin was hospitalized.

‘The secretary was aware of the strike/actions on Jan. 4,’ a senior U.S. defense official said.

Ryder previously told Fox News he could not provide additional information about Austin’s ailments for privacy reasons. Austin resumed his duties from the hospital on Friday.

Fox News Digital’s Houston Keene, Greg Wehner and Liz Friden contributed to this report.

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