US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December, has been hospitalized once again due to an emergent bladder issue, according to a statement by the Pentagon. This is the second time in less than two months that Austin has been admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for complications related to his cancer treatment. The hospitalization has raised concerns about his health and his ability to perform his duties as the top civilian leader of the US military.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s Hospitalizations and Health Concerns
Austin was taken to the hospital on Sunday afternoon by his security detail “to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue”, Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement. While Austin initially intended to retain the “functions and duties of his office”, at about 5 p.m. Sunday he transferred those authorities to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. As of Sunday evening, he remained hospitalized.
A statement from Walter Reed medical officials late Sunday said Austin was admitted into the critical care unit for supportive care and close monitoring. Dr. John Maddox, the trauma medical director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, director of the Center for Prostate Disease Research of the Murtha Cancer Center, said while it was unclear at this time how long Austin will remain hospitalized, “the current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery”.
Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and underwent a procedure called a prostatectomy to treat it on Dec. 22. Over the following week, he developed complications and on Jan. 1, in extreme pain, he was taken to Walter Reed by ambulance where he was admitted to the intensive care unit. Austin remained at Walter Reed until Jan. 15. He then continued to recover and work from home, and he returned to the Pentagon Jan. 29. His doctors have previously said his prognosis against the cancer is “excellent” and that no further treatments will be needed.
Austin has gone back to Walter Reed for follow-ups since his hospitalization but this is his first unscheduled trip due to continued complications from his cancer treatments.
Transferring Powers to Deputy
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House and Congress were notified of Austin’s hospitalization and transfer of authorities, the Pentagon said. Hicks “is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the secretary of defense, if required”, the statement added. Hicks is the first woman to serve as the deputy secretary of defense and the acting secretary of defense.
Austin was scheduled to depart Tuesday for Brussels to hold a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which he established in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after Russia’s invasion. After that, Austin was scheduled to attend a regular meeting of NATO defense ministers. It was not immediately clear if this hospitalization would change those plans.
This is not the first time that Austin has transferred his powers to Hicks due to his health issues. On Jan. 4, Austin delegated his authorities to Hicks for a few hours while he underwent a medical procedure at Walter Reed. On Jan. 29, he did the same while he received his second dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.
Wishes and Well-Wishes for Secretary Austin’s Recovery
Austin’s hospitalization has drawn wishes and well-wishes for his recovery from various news outlets, colleagues and officials. TIME magazine, which reported on Austin’s hospitalization, said that Austin is “a widely respected leader who has served in the military for more than 40 years, rising to become the first Black four-star Army general to lead U.S. Central Command”. The Guardian, which also covered the news, said that Austin is “Joe Biden’s top military adviser” and “the first African American to lead the Pentagon”.
Some of Austin’s fellow cabinet members also expressed their support and prayers for him on social media. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted: “Wishing my friend and colleague @SecDef a speedy recovery. Lloyd Austin is a patriot and a warrior, and I know he’ll be back on his feet soon”. Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas tweeted: “Sending my best wishes to @SecDef for a swift recovery. Secretary Austin is a dedicated public servant and a leader of the highest caliber”.
President Joe Biden, who appointed Austin as his defense secretary, also spoke to him on Sunday and wished him well, according to White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki. Psaki said that Biden “has full confidence in Secretary Austin’s ability to continue to lead the Department of Defense and to oversee the national security of the United States even as he recovers from this procedure”.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who is recovering from prostate cancer, has been hospitalized again for an emergent bladder issue, the Pentagon said. Austin has transferred his authorities to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, while he remains under medical care and observation. Austin’s hospitalization has sparked concerns about his health and his role as the head of the US military, but also received wishes and well-wishes from various sources. Austin’s doctors have said that his current bladder issue is not expected to affect his full recovery from cancer.