Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been sent back to the hospital, the Pentagon announced on Sunday, the latest wrinkle in a health controversy that began last month over the Cabinet official’s secretive hospitalization for complications following a procedure to treat prostate cancer.
“Today, at approximately 2:20 p.m., 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,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement.
“The Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications have occurred,” Ryder added.
“At this time, the Secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office,” Ryder said. “The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense, if required. Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties.”
Ryder concluded by saying the Pentagon will provide an update on Austin’s condition as “soon as possible.”
Austin, 70, faced blowback after the revelation that the secretary had been hospitalized on January 1 for complications stemming from a prostate cancer procedure and delegated some of his duties to a deputy without informing top brass in the Biden administration and Congress.
Some critics, including GOP lawmakers and former President Donald Trump, called for Austin’s ouster as more details emerged, including that Austin kept his cancer diagnosis under wraps until the story broke. Multiple inquiries ensued, and the White House released new guidelines for Cabinet secretaries to enhance transparency rules when authority is delegated to a subordinate.
The Department of Defense said Austin resumed his duties from home after being released from the hospital on January 15, and the secretary returned to work at the Pentagon on January 29. Austin has been scheduled to testify before a House committee about “his failure to disclose his hospitalization” on February 29.
During a press conference earlier this month, Austin expressed remorse for how his cancer diagnosis and hospitalization were handled.
“We did not handle this right, and I did not handle this right,” Austin said. “I should’ve told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public. And I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.”