US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized again on Sunday for treatment of a bladder problem as he continues to recover from prostate cancer, and transferred his authority to his deputy secretary, the Pentagon said.
Austin was diagnosed with cancer in December and underwent a procedure called a prostatectomy to treat it on the 22nd of the month. He continues to deal with complications from his treatment.
At about 2:20 p.m., his bodyguards took him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center “to be evaluated for symptoms that suggest an incipient kidney problem,” said Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. gen. Pat in a statement. Ryder.
Although Austin initially intended to retain the “functions and obligations of his office,” at around 5:00 pm on Sunday he transferred the powers to Kathleen Hicks, Undersecretary of Defense. He remained hospitalized overnight, Ryder said.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also notified, as well as the White House and some lawmakers.
Austin is scheduled to leave Tuesday for Brussels to hold a meeting with the contact group with Ukraine, which he set up in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after the Russian invasion. After that, he is scheduled to attend a regular meeting of NATO defense ministers.
It was not immediately clear if this hospitalization would change those plans.
During the week after Austin’s surgery, complications arose and on January 1st he was taken by ambulance to Walter Reed, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. He remained in the hospital until January 15. He continued to recover and work from home, returning to the Pentagon on January 29.
His doctors previously said his prognosis against cancer was “excellent” and that he would not need further treatment.
Austin returned to Walter Reed for a checkup since his hospitalization, but this was the first time he was unexpectedly due to ongoing complications resulting from his cancer treatments.
For weeks, Austin did not inform President Joe Biden, Congress or Hicks of his cancer diagnosis or initial hospitalization. This secrecy has been the subject of an inspector general investigation and an internal Pentagon review. Austin has already stated that he never ordered his staff to hide his hospitalization.