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Pentagon: US Defense Secretary Austin Hospitalized

Voice of America
11 Feb 2024

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was taken to the Walter Reed military hospital Sunday for treatment of 'symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,' a Pentagon spokesperson said.

"The Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications have occurred," Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a written statement.

"At this time, the Secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office. The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense, if required," the statement said.

Ryder said an update on Austin's condition would be provided as soon as possible.

Late last year, Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He has been criticized for keeping secret his diagnosis, surgery and subsequent hospitalization with complications from the procedure.

On February 1, Austin, 70, told The Associated Press that when he first was told the diagnosis, "The news shook me. ... Frankly, my first instinct was to keep it private."

Upon being diagnosed with prostate cancer earlier in December, he went to a hospital for a surgical procedure on December 22. He worked the following week from home, The Associated Press reported.

On January 1, he was taken by ambulance to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington after experiencing extreme pain and was admitted to the intensive care unit. During a two-week stay, he did not inform the White House or his deputy that he had cancer, had surgery or had been taken back to the hospital and put in intensive care until days later, the AP reported.

President Joe Biden and other key leaders were informed of Austin's diagnosis more than a week after he'd been readmitted to the hospital.

Austin's lack of disclosure prompted changes in federal guidelines and triggered an internal Pentagon review and an inspector general review into his department's notification procedures.

Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb contributed to this report. Some information came from The Associated Press.

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