The Pentagon had already announced that Austin wasn’t planning to resign. “He remains focused on conducting his duties as secretary of Defense in defense of our nation,” DOD spokesperson Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters.
The decision by Biden to stand by Austin comes amid calls from Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, for him to be fired. Austin did not disclose last week that he was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with complications from an undisclosed surgical procedure, raising questions about what ailment he had and why he decided to keep such a sensitive matter secret.
But Biden is famously loyal and values continuity in his cabinet. He gets his back up when the pundit class calls for him to make such personnel changes. The chatter around Austin makes it that much less likely he’d act.
Biden and his team have been adamant that Austin remains in good standing, despite not informing the White House or his deputy of his hospitalization for three days. Both men held a call on Saturday, their first conversation since Austin’s Jan. 1 hospitalization at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where Biden stated he looked forward to seeing the secretary back at the Pentagon soon.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday that Biden “respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency” and said that Austin would stay in the job.
“Our main focus right now is on Secretary Austin’s health and making sure he gets all the care and support he needs to fully recover,” he added.
Kirby declined to share with reporters the status of Austin’s health, but said that he was working from the hospital and would return to the Pentagon in the relatively near future. He added that there would be a review of the situation so that the administration could “learn from this experience.”