Politics

Defense Secretary Austin is hospitalized with bladder issue, transfers powers to his deputy

WASHINGTON — (AP) — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized again Sunday to address a bladder issue as he continues to recover from prostate cancer and has transferred authorities to his deputy, the Pentagon said.

Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and continues to deal with complications from his treatment.

At about 2:20 p.m. Sunday, he was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center "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.”

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was notified, as well as the White House and Congress.

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.

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.

Austin did not tell President Joe Biden, Congress or his deputy defense secretary of his December cancer diagnosis or initial hospitalization for weeks. That secrecy has become the subject of an inspector general investigation and a Pentagon internal review. He has previously said he never instructed his staff to keep his hospitalization a secret.

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