Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this afternoon, the Pentagon announced today. It’s the second time in two months that he has been taken to Walter Reed.
Secretary Austin was taken to Walter Reed shortly after 2 p.m. Eastern Time “to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” the Pentagon said.
“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,” Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. “Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties.”
The White House, Congress, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Deputy Secretary of Defense were all notified of Austin’s hospital visit, Ryder said in his statement. That’s a big difference from Austin’s earlier hospitalization at the start of January.
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Austin was taken to Walter Reed on Jan. 1 for complications tied to prostate cancer surgery that occurred in late December. Austin was taken there by ambulance and put in intensive care. He did not notify President Joe Biden or Congressional leaders, nor disclose his cancer diagnosis until he had already been in the hospital for several days. During his stay at the hospital he transferred some duties to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who did not learn that he was hospitalized until two days after that transfer.
Austin was released from Walter Reed after two weeks and returned to the Pentagon on Jan. 29. He has acknowledged that he should have communicated with top officials and the White House about his diagnosis and hospitalization, saying “We did not handle this right, and I did not handle this right.”
Earlier this week the Pentagon wrapped up its own internal review of Austin’s lack of disclosure and hospital visit. This week Austin’s office confirmed he would testify before Congress about his hospitalization and lack of communication and transparency with government leaders. That testimony was set for Feb. 29; it is unclear if today’s hospital visit will lead to any rescheduling.
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