Hospitalized Pentagon chief to skip NATO meeting on Ukraine
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has undergone undisclosed “non-surgical procedures” after he was hospitalized with a bladder issue over the weekend, the Pentagon announced on Monday.
Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday for emergency treatment for the second time this year, but a “prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated” this time, the Department of Defense said in a statement.
“Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III underwent non-surgical procedures under general anesthesia to address his bladder issue. We anticipate a successful recovery and will closely monitor him overnight,” the department added.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks assumed Austin’s functions and duties while he was incapacitated, but he is expected to “resume his normal duties tomorrow,” the statement continued.
Austin underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer on December 22, but was hospitalized again for two weeks in early January due to “complications.” The Pentagon has insisted that Austin’s cancer prognosis “remains excellent,” and that the new bladder issue is “not expected to change his anticipated full recovery.”
The US defense chief was set to participate in several NATO gatherings this week, including a so-called Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting, but the plan has now been scrapped.
“Secretary Austin will no longer travel to Brussels this week as originally scheduled,” Pentagon spokesperson Patrick Ryder confirmed on Monday, adding that Austin will instead participate in the event virtually and “will remain flexible depending on his healthcare status.”
The Pentagon was criticized for the way Austin’s January hospital stay was handled, after it was revealed that President Joe Biden was not properly informed until several days later. Following the controversy, the Defense Department is now reviewing how defense officials handled information surrounding Austin’s illness.