United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd AustinAFP
Published 02/11/2024 20:38
United States Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, whose secret hospitalizations have caused controversy, has been admitted to a hospital again, the Pentagon announced this Sunday (11), adding that the White House has been informed.
Austin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and recently underwent surgery, was transferred to a military center outside Washington because of an apparent bladder problem, Defense Department spokesman Pat Ryder said in a statement.
Austin disappeared from the public scene in late December and again in early January after facing complications from cancer treatment on December 22, initially withholding both the diagnosis and treatment from President Joe Biden and the rest of the administration.
This time, the public was alerted about two hours after Austin was taken to the hospital this Sunday afternoon.
Austin “was transferred by his security team to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be treated for symptoms that suggested an emerging bladder problem,” Ryder said in the statement.
“The Under Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been briefed. Additionally, notifications have been made to the White House and Congress,” he added.
Austin will maintain “the duties and obligations of his position” while hospitalized, the spokesperson said.
The Defense Secretary apologized earlier this month after receiving harsh political criticism for keeping previous hospitalizations secret.
“I should have informed the president about my cancer diagnosis,” he told reporters on February 1.
At that time, he said he was still recovering, that his legs hurt and that he used a golf cart to get around inside the Pentagon.
The undisclosed absences, as well as the current hospital stay, come as the United States faces a spiral of crises in the Middle East, with American forces in Iraq and Syria facing near-daily attacks from Iranian-backed fighters in retaliation for Washington’s strong support for Israel.
Austin is also a key figure in the Biden administration’s efforts to maintain support for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion as congressional Republicans refuse to authorize new funds for military aid to Kiev.