The Pentagon announced Sunday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is back in the hospital, weeks after a lengthy hospitalization following prostate cancer treatment and subsequent complications.
Around 5 p.m. Eastern, Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder informed the Pentagon press in a statement that said:
Today, at approximately 2:20 pm, 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 Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications have occurred.
The statement said that Austin is retaining his duties “at this time,” and indicated that he would be in the hospital for some period of time.
“At this time, the Secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office. 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 added.
“We will provide an update on Secretary Austin’s condition as soon as possible,” he said.
The notification, just hours after Austin’s hospitalization, stands in stark contrast to the last two times Austin was hospitalized. In the first instance, in late December, Austin underwent a surgery for prostate cancer and did not inform the president.
In the second instance, Austin was rushed back to intensive care on January 1 and did not tell President Joe Biden, his own deputy, and other senior White House and Pentagon officials until January 4. He waited an additional day before informing Congress and the American public.
The lack of transparency angered both Republicans and Democrats, who have called for Austin’s resignation due to his unauthorized and secret absence at a time when U.S. troops are being targeted in the Middle East.
Austin is set to testify to Congress on February 29, at the request of House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL).