Defense Secretary Back in the Hospital

( – US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin returned to a hospital on February 11, transferring his powers to his deputy. The situation occurred a couple of days before his planned trip to Europe and nearly two months after a secretive health emergency sparked controversy for the US Pentagon.

The Defense Department stated that the secretary had an “emergent bladder issue” and was being treated at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. During a press conference, Major General Pat Ryder explained that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, along with the White House and the House of Representatives were already alerted about the matter. He also told reporters that Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will assume all duties and functions for Austin, noting it was unclear how much time he “will remain hospitalized.”

The defense secretary was scheduled to depart on February 13 for Brussels to hold an official meeting of military officials coordinating strategy and aid for the Ukrainian armed forces in its war against the Russian invasion. Austin was also going to be part of numerous meetings at NATO to discuss the present and future of the treaty organization at a moment when many fear the Kremlin could invade one of its member countries if it wins the war against Ukraine.

The secretary was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December 2023 and underwent a medical procedure to treat it. While the procedure required general anesthesia and a 24-hour stay at the Walter Reed hospital, Austin returned to the health center on New Year’s Day, as he suffered from post-surgery complications.

His unannounced hospitalization, which wasn’t disclosed to the Biden administration and the media for days, raised massive concerns about transparency within the White House. Many Republicans have expressed their disagreement with the way the Pentagon handled the defense secretary’s illness. Austin will have to testify to the Congress’ Armed Services Committee about the matter at the end of this month.

Austin was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Tuesday, resuming his responsibilities remotely at the recommendation of doctors.

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