Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was taken to the hospital again on Sunday afternoon, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement, in a change after the secretary’s secret hospitalization in January triggered a firestorm of criticism.
Austin’s security staff brought him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at 2:20 p.m. on Sunday for “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” the statement read. The secretary retained his duties at first, while the statement pointed out that Austin’s deputy, the top U.S. military officer, the White House staff and other officials have been notified within hours, a major break from January when key national security officials did not know of his absence.
After a round of tests, Austin was admitted to the critical care unit for further care, according to a statement. (RELATED: US Kills Top Terrorist Leader In Drone Strike)
“Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue. Tonight, after a series of tests and evaluations, the Secretary was admitted into the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring,” Austin’s physicians, Dr. John Maddox and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, said in a statement late Sunday night.
It’s unclear how long Austin will remain hospitalized, the doctors added.
For now, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks is acting in his stead. At around 5 p.m., Austin transferred the duties of the secretary to Hicks, Ryder said in an update, adding that the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. C. Q. Brown, the White House and Congress have also been notified.
Austin faced criticism from Congress and others after his closeted two-week stay to address complications that arose from a Dec. 22 procedure to treat prostate cancer.
Roughly one week after he underwent non-invasive surgery to treat prostate cancer that was not disclosed to the president or other national security and defense officials, Austin was transported in an ambulance to Walter Reed after experiencing nausea and severe pain in his legs and abdominal area. Doctors placed him in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) on Jan. 2 to treat a urinary tract infection, but he received only non-surgical care and never underwent general anesthesia.
The public did not learn of his hospitalization until Jan. 5, shortly after Congress was notified and just one day after President Biden, Austin’s deputy and top national security officials received the news. He resumed full duties as secretary of defense that same day.
Good luck to both teams! pic.twitter.com/joP99s13yA
— Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III (@SecDef) February 11, 2024
“The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense, if required,” Ryder said initially on Sunday.
“Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties,” Ryder said. He promised to provide updates on Austin’s condition as soon as possible.
Austin had just returned to work in the Pentagon on Jan. 29 after weeks of recovery at his home in Virginia since his discharge from Walter Reed r on Jan. 15. Doctors had said he was expected to make a full recovery.
There was no immediate indication that the latest ailment is connected to Austin’s prior operation to cure prostate cancer or the subsequent interventions and therapy to manage complications that emerged from the operation.
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