White House establishes guidelines for Cabinet notifications following Austin’s hospitalization controversy

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The White House this week established a new set of guidelines for when Cabinet heads are unable to do their job and have to delegate authority. 

The new rules come in the wake of the revelation earlier this month that the Pentagon failed to notify the White House for several days of Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s hospitalization and surgery for prostate cancer in late December.  

Following the communications fiasco — and even some calls for Austin to resign — the White House conducted a review, asking each Cabinet department for its notification process before revealing its new guidelines Friday. 

The guidelines, obtained by Fox News, include notifying the offices of cabinet affairs and White House chief of staff, ‘when agencies anticipate or are preparing for a delegation of authority and again when the delegation occurs,’ documenting in writing that the delegation of authority is in effect and the acting authority needs to contact its counterpart in the White House, according to a memo from White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients sent to Cabinet Secretaries. 


Notably, Zients’ memo added, that a delegation of authority is also required when the Cabinet member is in ‘limited or no access to communication, undergoing hospitalization or a medical procedure requiring general anesthesia, or otherwise in a circumstance when he or she may be unreachable.’


Austin was first admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, on Dec. 22 for prostate surgery, then taken back to the hospital after he developed an infection a week later. 

It was days before the White House was notified and Congress, the press and the public didn’t hear about it until Jan. 5. 

On Friday, Austin visited doctors at Walter Reed for a ‘for a scheduled post-prostatectomy surveillance appointment.’

Walter Reed Dr. John Maddox and Dr. Gregory Chesnut said in a statement that Austin ‘continues to recover well and is expected to make a full recovery.’

‘Secretary Austin’s prostate cancer was treated early and effectively, and his prognosis is excellent. Beyond planned physical therapy and regular post-prostatectomy follow-up appointments, he has no planned further treatment for his cancer.’

A U.S. Defense official told Fox News on Friday that Austin is expected to be back at the Pentagon on Monday after recovering from his surgery and working at home since Jan. 15.

Fox News’ Pat Ward contributed to this report. 

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