Defense Secretary Austin Transfers Duties to Deputy Amid Hospitalization, Pentagon Announces

Credits: Axios

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has delegated his responsibilities to his deputy as he undergoes treatment for symptoms indicating a potential urgent bladder issue, the Pentagon reported.

Austin is currently admitted to the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, and the duration of his hospitalization remains uncertain.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has assumed the top spot at the Pentagon temporarily, taking over Austin’s duties. The transfer of responsibilities occurred shortly before 5 p.m., according to Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary. Notifications have been made to the White House, the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, and Congress.

Austin, Defense Secretary (Credits: The Hill)

The swift announcement of Austin’s hospitalization, within three hours of his admission, contrasts with the previous instance when the defense secretary faced criticism for inadequate communication about his health concerns. Austin was taken to Walter Reed at around 2:20 p.m., equipped with both unclassified and classified communication systems required for his responsibilities.

In early December, Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer, leading to a procedure for treatment on December 22. The treatment involved general anesthesia and an overnight stay at Walter Reed. On New Year’s Day, he returned to the hospital due to complications from the initial procedure.

The handling of Austin’s illness, particularly the lack of transparency about his previous hospitalization, drew criticism and raised questions about the administration’s openness.

After two weeks in the hospital and an additional two weeks of remote work, Austin admitted to mishandling the situation in a news conference on February 1.

He expressed regret for not informing President Joe Biden, his team, and the public about his cancer diagnosis promptly. Austin issued an apology, acknowledging the mistake and pledging to take full responsibility.

Last week, the Office of the Secretary of Defense conducted a 30-day review of notification procedures surrounding the transfer of responsibilities. Austin, who received the review, is currently reviewing its findings.

While much of the review is classified, the Pentagon intends to share as much information publicly as possible, emphasizing a commitment to transparency regarding the review’s outcomes.

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