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    White House Orders Cabinet Secretaries to Notify When They Can’t Perform Duties After Austin Illness

    White House Orders Cabinet Secretaries to Notify When They Can't Perform Duties After Austin Illness

    — The White House chief of staff on Tuesday ordered Cabinet members or secretaries to notify his office if they ever can't perform their duties, as the Biden administration, reeling from learning of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's surprise illness last week, mounts a policy review.

    Jeff Zients, in a memo to Cabinet secretaries, directed that they send the White House any existing procedures for delegating authority in the event of incapacitation or loss of communication by Friday. While the review is ongoing, he is requiring agencies to notify his office and the office of Cabinet affairs at the White House if an agency experiences or plans to experience a circumstance in which a Cabinet head can't perform their duties.

    The memo comes after President Joe Biden and other top officials weren't informed for days that Austin had been hospitalized and had turned over to his deputy. A Pentagon spokesman blamed the lapse on a key staffer being out sick with the flu.

    “Agencies should ensure that delegations are issued when a Cabinet Member is traveling to areas with 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,” Zients' memo states. It also requires that agencies document when any such transfer of authorities occurs and that the person serving in the acting role…

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