President Joe Biden Not Informed of Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Cancer Diagnosis Until Weeks Later on the Same Day as the Public — ‘Not Optimal’

President Joe Biden first learned Tuesday of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s prostate cancer, a month after his diagnosis and the same days as the public.

Tuesday, Walter Reed National Military Medical Center revealed Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early December, undergoing a prostatectomy on December 22.

According to Walter Reed, 70-year-old Austin recovered typically from his surgery and returned the following day. The hospital said that because his cancer was detected early, the prognosis is “excellent.”

During the hospitalization, Secretary Austin transferred authority to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and didn’t inform the White House. For days, the Defense Department said Austin was initially at Walter Reed for “an elective procedure,” not prostate surgery.

John Kirby, White House National Security Council spokesperson, said Tuesday Biden wasn’t informed of Austin’s hospitalization until last Thursday and learned only of the cancer diagnosis Tuesday.

When asked if the president believed the time-lapse was acceptable, Kirby said it was “not optimal.”

“For a situation like this to go as long as it did without the commander in chief knowing about it or the national adviser knowing about it or, frankly, other leaders at the Department of Defense, that’s not the way this is supposed to happen. The president understands that,” said Kirby.

Jeff Zients, White House Chief of Staff, released a memo to the president’s Cabinet earlier Tuesday regarding protocols for delegating authority. It asks every agency in the Cabinet to submit in writing the existing protocols for the delegation of authority they have in place to the chief of staff and White House Office of Cabinet Affairs by Friday.

The memo from Zients also directs protocols agencies in the Cabinet must undertake in the event of the delegation of authority, said Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary. The Pentagon also launched its review.

“We all recognize that this didn’t unfold as it should have. On so many levels, not just the notification process up the chain of command but the transparency issue, we all recognize that. And I think we all want to make sure we learn from that,” said Kirby.

It remains unclear how Secretary Austin’s agenda would be affected

It was unclear Tuesday how this would affect Secretary Austin’s travel, public engagements, and job moving forward.

Monday, the Pentagon issued a memo on its internal review, broadening the circle of leaders who would be informed of any delegation of authority by Austin to ensure that in the future, “proper and timely notification has been made to the President and White House and, as appropriate the United States Congress and the American public.”

Moving forward, any time authority is transferred, a broader range of officials who will also be notified include the chair and vice chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon’s general counsel service secretaries, the combatant commanders, the service chiefs of staff, senior staff of the deputy secretary and secretary of the defense, and the White House Situation Room.