Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was transferred into critical care on Sunday night after being admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center earlier in the day for a bladder issue, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The news is 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.
“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,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “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.”
“At this time, it is not clear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized,” the statement continued. “The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery. His cancer prognosis remains excellent. Updates on the Secretary’s condition will be provided as soon as possible.”
Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a separate statement that Austin, at approximately 5 p.m. EST, “transferred the functions and duties of the office of the Secretary of Defense to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.”
Austin, 70, faced blowback earlier this year after the revelation that he 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.”
Daniel Chaitin contributed to this report.