WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, spoke at a press conference about Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin's failure to immediately inform the President, Congress, and senior Defense officials about his absence for days.

During her remarks, Senator Fischer stressed the importance of a clear chain of command and demanded answers on the communications breakdown.

Click here to watch video of Sen. Fischer’s remarks

Click here to download audio

 Click here to download video

On America’s Military Readiness:

"If a Houthi drone hits one of our ships in the Red Sea, we can't be wondering where the Secretary of Defense is. Imagine if there was an incident in the South China Sea. Imagine if we suffered a terrorist attack here on our homeland. The Secretary of Defense's location and his ability to respond cannot be in question.

But, if any security crisis had occurred last week, no one would have known where to find Secretary Austin." 

On Secretary Austin’s Actions:

"Our Secretary of Defense failed to notify the President. He failed to notify Congress. He failed to notify his subordinates or the National Security Council when he was absent for days.

The problem is not that Secretary Austin needed a medical procedure. I'm grateful that he received care. I am grateful that he is recovering well. But the problem here is his judgment. Congress should have been informed. That is required under current law. It says that Congress should be notified immediately. That didn't happen.

The Secretary of Defense plays a critical role in our nation's most significant military operations. He is the most significant adviser to the President on nuclear military decisions. And the President relies on his judgment when every second counts. So, this breakdown in command and this breakdown in communication, it threatened our country's safety." 

On the Need for Accountability:

"It exposed serious accountability problems within the President's cabinet and problems within the Pentagon. We were told that there would be an internal review within the Department of Defense. The Secretary's Chief of Staff announced that earlier. I agree with Senator Wicker, and I'm pleased that we're going to see a different review. And I hope that review is going to include not only the Department of Defense, the National Security Council and the executive branch, and the administration, but that it will also include Congress as well.

We have to have these questions answered. America deserves to have answers now. We need to have them soon. And, if there are problems out there besides the fact that it was a decision just not to tell anybody, if there is a problem with command, if there is a problem with communication, those need to be addressed. And they need to be addressed soon."

Pursuant to Senate Policy, petitions, opinion polls and unsolicited mass electronic communications cannot be initiated by this office for the 60-day period immediately before the date of a primary or general election. Subscribers currently receiving electronic communications from this office who wish to unsubscribe may do so here.