Pentagon Says Lloyd Austin Recovering After Hospitalization

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Micaela Burrow Investigative Reporter, Defense
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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is recovering in the hospital following complications that arose from an unspecified medical procedure, the Pentagon said Friday.

Austin was admitted to Walter Reed hospital on Jan. 1, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in an emailed statement Friday evening. He is recovering and was expected to return to his full duties on Friday, meaning he would have been in the hospital when the U.S. conducted a targeted retaliatory airstrike on a militia commander in Baghdad in response to a spate of attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq and Syria on Thursday.

“On the evening of January 1, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for complications following a recent elective medical procedure. He is recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today,” Ryder said. (RELATED: ‘Nothing Has Changed’: Pentagon Plan To Shut Down Red Sea Attacks Isn’t Working, Experts Say)

“At all times, the Deputy Secretary of Defense was prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required,” the statement read. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is the Pentagon’s second-in-command.

Austin was in the hospital’s Intensive Care Unit for four days and remained in the hospital Saturday, NBC News reported, citing two administration officials.

The secretary resumed his full duties late Friday, Ryder told NBC News. Department of Defense (DOD) officials would not disclose further details about Austin’s ailment, the procedure he underwent or how critical his condition was during his ICU stay.

Hicks was on a previously scheduled vacation in Puerto Rico when Austin’s emergency occurred, a defense official told NBC News. Hick “has maintained full communication with the DoD staff throughout and “monitored DOD’s day-to-day operations and conducted some routine business,” the official said.

Sasha Baker serves as the Pentagon’s acting third-in-command because the Senate has yet to confirm President Joe Biden’s nominee for the position of Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, Derek Chollet, according to NBC News.

“This has been an evolving situation in which we had to consider a number of factors” including Austin’s interests in maintain privacy, Ryder told NBC News, describing reasons for the Pentagon’s secrecy.


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