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Friday, March 1, 2024

Hospitalised Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin transfers duties to deputy

Austin was scheduled to travel to Brussels this week for meeting on war in Ukraine on Wednesday

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a joint news conference with Indonesia’s Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto (not pictured), following their meeting in Jakarta, Indonesia, November 21, 2022. — Reuters

The United States Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin transferred duties to Deputy Defence Secretary Kathleen Hicks after he was hospitalised for an “emergent bladder issue”, the Pentagon announced on Sunday.

The 70-year-old head of the Pentagon is in the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Virginia, with officials stating that the duration of his hospital stay is yet to be determined, the BBC reported.

In its announcement, the Pentagon confirmed that the White House and senior defence officials were notified, as Austin previously faced criticism for not disclosing his prostate cancer diagnosis and hospital stays in December and January.

Hours later, they shared an update that Austin had been admitted to the critical care unit for supportive care and close monitoring after testing, as confirmed by the hospital.

The bladder issue is not expected to change Austin’s “anticipated full recovery”, his doctors said, following a prostate cancer diagnosis in December. 

“His cancer prognosis remains excellent.”

Austin was scheduled to travel to Brussels this week for a Wednesday meeting on the ongoing war in Ukraine. It is not yet clear if his hospital stay will impede those plans.

Late last year, Austin underwent surgery for cancer treatment but was readmitted to the hospital on New Year’s Day with severe leg, hip, and abdomen pain due to complications.

He stayed in the hospital for two additional weeks after a urinary tract infection was found in an evaluation.

Senior defence officials and the Biden administration did not know that Austin was seriously ill until three days after his re-admission in January.

The defence secretary denied directing staff to cover his hospital stay from the White House or the public but did not clarify if staff acted outside his orders.

He said he was “deeply sorry” for failing to provide appropriate notice and said he had apologised personally to US President Joe Biden.

Biden remained confident in Austin’s leadership, stating that he was “sub-optimal” not to disclose the severity of his illness.

Austin is scheduled to testify before Congress at the end of this month about his failure to notify government leaders.

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