The Pentagon announced Sunday that Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III had been transferred that afternoon to a military hospital for treatment for “symptoms suggestive of an emerging bladder problem.”
Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, at 2:20 p.m., a Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, said in a statement. He added that the deputy secretary of Defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the White House and members of Congress, had been notified.
Gen. Ryder said Austin, 70, “retained the functions and duties of his office.” If necessary, he added, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks would assume those responsibilities.
The announcement appeared to be aimed at showing transparency around Mr. Austin's medical condition and emphasizing the fact that several senior US government officials had been informed.
Mr. Austin came under widespread criticism last month when he went to the hospital for several days for treatment for complications related to recent prostate cancer surgery. He had initially kept his hospital visit a secret from senior administration officials, including President Biden, the White House national security adviser, the secretary of state, and senior Pentagon officials, including those immediately under his command. in the office.
Austin had also not informed the president that he had undergone the original surgery in December.
Lawmakers called on the Pentagon to provide answers about why so many officials were kept in the dark. Biden said on Jan. 12 that he still had confidence in Austin. But when the president was asked if it was an error in judgment on Austin's part not to inform him that he had been out of service, Biden said “yes.”
Austin, a retired four-star Army general and former commander of the United States Central Command, had served in the Army for more than 40 years when he assumed the Pentagon's top job in 2021. Throughout his career, he has He has tried to avoid attention and has tried to keep many parts of his life out of the public spotlight.
General Ryder said the Pentagon would provide an update on Mr. Austin's condition as soon as possible.
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