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Politics

Defense Secretary Austin Hospitalized with Bladder Issue, but ‘Retaining the Functions’ of Office

February 11, 2024

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized Sunday following symptoms pointing to an “emergent bladder issue,” the Pentagon said.

In a statement, the Pentagon said Austin was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center around 2:20 p.m. He “is retaining the functions and duties of his office,” according to Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, who added that the deputy defense secretary has been notified and is prepared to assume Austin’s duties “if required.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also notified, as well as the White House and some members of Congress.

Ryder said Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems needed to perform his job.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right, and Kenya’s Defense Minister Aden Duale, left, listen during the National Anthem during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Austin was scheduled to depart Tuesday for Brussels to hold a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which he established in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after Russia’s invasion. After that, Austin was scheduled to attend a regular meeting of NATO defense ministers. It was not immediately clear if this hospitalization would change those plans.

Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and underwent a procedure called a prostatectomy to treat it on Dec. 22.

Over the next week, he developed complications and on Jan. 1, in extreme pain, he was taken to Walter Reed by ambulance where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. Austin remained at Walter Reed until Jan. 15. He then continued to recover and work from home, and he returned to the Pentagon Jan. 29.

His doctors have previously said his prognosis against the cancer is “excellent” and that no further treatments will be needed.

Austin has gone back to Walter Reed for follow-ups since his hospitalization but this is his first unscheduled trip due to continued complications from his cancer treatments.

Austin did not tell President Joe Biden, Congress or his deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks, of his cancer diagnosis or initial hospitalization for weeks. That secrecy has become the subject of an inspector general investigation and a Pentagon internal review. He has previously said he never instructed his staff to keep his hospitalization a secret.

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