Even the most green recruits get drilled on the first general order of the US Army: I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved. And in case that doesn’t get followed, the Army has a third general order: I will report violations of my special orders, emergencies, and anything not covered in my instructions to the commander of the relief. Violating those general orders could put an enlistee in a court-martial for an Article 92 violation and at risk for some time in the stockade.
So what does it say when a former four-star general and the penultimate civilian commander of the Armed Forces abandons his post without proper relief or notification of the chain of command? The White House refuses to hold Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to any disciplinary standard, let alone the standard that the Pentagon demands of its service members, albeit in a civilian context.
Republicans, on the other hand, now want to impeach Austin for his dereliction of duty, among other issues:
“Sec. Austin has violated his oath of office time and time again, and has jeopardized the lives of the American people,” said Rep. Rosendale.
“Sec. Austin knowingly put the American people in danger and compromised our national security when he allowed a spy balloon from a foreign adversary to fly over Malmstrom Air Force Base – home to ICBMs – and allowed the Chinese Communist Party to gather intel on American citizens. Moreover, recent reports show that Sec. Austin lied about the balloon repeatedly, putting the American people in danger.
“This dishonesty seems to be a repeated pattern for the Secretary as he once again lied to our military and the American people about his health last week.
“Furthermore, the Secretary failed to uphold his oath of office during the Biden Administration’s disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan which led to the death of 13 American soldiers and enabled unvetted migrants to flow into the United States – including allowing an unvetted migrant to rape a young woman in Missoula.
“Sec. Austin is unfit for the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which is why I urge my colleagues to join me in impeaching him to protect the American people.”
You had me at dereliction of duty, Rep. Rosendale.
The rest of these complaints relate more to policy than performance, and are criticisms of Joe Biden more than Austin — well-deserved criticisms, but not performance-related as such. Failing to properly arrange his relief and the chain of command for a planned surgical procedure (prostate cancer, CNN now reports) is a much clearer disqualification for anyone in a position of high public trust. That would be true even in a purely civilian context, but much more so when that position commands all of the nation’s armed services. Succession planning is built into military organizations, and should be built into its civilian leadership too — especially when led by a former commander of CENTCOM and a retired four-star general.
And by the way, just a couple of days ago, the Biden administration called this an “elective” surgery, as Guy Benson notes:
Again, we wish Austin well & pray for a full recovery. Also…Didn’t they tell us the procedure was “elective”? Now they’re telling us it was cancer? https://t.co/MMXKmkEey0
— Guy Benson (@guypbenson) January 9, 2024
So no one knew what was going on at all in our nation’s military chain of command, while our forces in the Middle East have been under attack on land and at sea. Groovy leadership, everyone!
The lack of disciplinary action is a disgrace, just on morale alone. What are our men and women in uniform to think when they are drilled on General Order 1? It’s not as if Austin got hospitalized in an emergency; he elected to undergo surgical treatment for his prostate over the holidays and then suffering a debilitating outcome — while his forces are in harm’s way in the Mediterranean and Red Seas — without arranging for proper relief and notification, including to leadership in Congress. The so-called “Gang of Eight” should have been apprised of Austin’s status and the necessary delegation of authorities and communications.
And Austin botched that up, too:
Kelly Magsamen, Austin’s chief of staff, ordered the 30-day review as the Pentagon has come under intense bi-partisan scrutiny for the secrecy surrounding Austin’s illness and delayed disclosures. …
Magsamen had been home ill last week and was unaware that Austin had been hospitalized and in intensive care. The Pentagon has cited her illness as one reason that the White House wasn’t informed of Austin’s serious illness for three days. …
Magsamen also ordered that senior officials receive immediate notice of the transfer of authority from Austin to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, when he is hospitalized or out of range of communications. Hicks, who was vacationing, assumed some of Austin’s authorities Jan. 2 but wasn’t told until two days later that Austin was in intensive care, according to Ryder. Austin resumed work the from hospital and took back authority from Hicks Jan. 5.
Why did Austin choose that moment — when his COS was out sick and his chief deputy was on vacation — to choose to have a surgical procedure performed that would prevent him from fulfilling his duties? Why did he not call them both back to cover his absence? This was not an emergency procedure, even if it resulted in a life-threatening outcome. And that was certainly a foreseeable potential outcome and which made proper notification even more critical to national security.
At any rate, this kind of incompetence and dereliction shouldn’t require a “30-day review” by a subordinate. The failures alone should result in Austin’s cashiering, and should have already been executed by Biden. Failing that, Congress has a duty to act to impose consequences on an official who serves under its authority. Remarkably, though, the US news media has barely considered the possibility of assigning any consequences to Austin for his dereliction of duty.
To the extent they’re covering it, it’s only in terms of Republicans pouncing:
As Austin controversy widens, Republicans find a new weapon against Biden https://t.co/JUnm0LWq9l
— POLITICO (@politico) January 9, 2024
And we all know why it’s (D)ifferent, too.
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