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5 Jan, 2024 23:01

Pentagon chief suffers surgery complications

Lloyd Austin’s secret hospital stay has gone unnoticed for days
Pentagon chief suffers surgery complications

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized since the New Year, with his deputy handling “routine business,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder revealed on Friday.

Austin was admitted to the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on Monday, for what Ryder described as “complications following a recent elective medical procedure.” The 70-year-old retired general is “recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today,” Ryder added.

The Pentagon would not disclose the type of “elective procedure” that Austin had undergone, or what the complications might have been. Ryder told the Military Times that the decision to keep Austin’s hospital stay secret was made “taking privacy into account” and due to the “evolving situation.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is “prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the secretary, if required” and has in fact “conducted some routine business for the department on his behalf,” Ryder told reporters.

The non-disclosure came in “stark contrast” to how the Marine Corps handled its commandant’s heart attack in October, the Military Times noted. The USMC sent out an email to reporters the very next day, letting them know that General Eric Smith had survived and was recovering.

Austin is the first African American to head the Pentagon, having been nominated by President Joe Biden in January 2021. Upon retiring from the military in 2016, Austin joined the board of military contractor Raytheon Technologies. He received a congressional waiver to be able to lead the Pentagon, since he had not been out of active service for seven years, as required by law.

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