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Defense Secretary Back in the Hospital


Defense Secretary Back in the Hospital

On February 11, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin revisited a hospital, delegating his responsibilities to his deputy. This development unfolded shortly before his scheduled journey to Europe, following a period of roughly two months after a health issue shrouded in secrecy stirred debate within the US Pentagon.

The Defense Department announced that the secretary experienced an urgent bladder problem and was undergoing treatment at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Major General Pat Ryder, speaking at a press briefing, informed that the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as officials from the White House and the House of Representatives, had been informed about the situation. He further informed journalists that Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks would take on all of Austin’s responsibilities and tasks, mentioning uncertainty regarding the duration of his hospitalization.

The defense secretary had plans to leave for Brussels on February 13 to attend an official gathering of military officials focused on strategizing and providing assistance to the Ukrainian armed forces amid the conflict with the Russian invasion. Austin was set to participate in several sessions at NATO, addressing the current and future prospects of the alliance, particularly amidst concerns that a victorious Russian campaign against Ukraine could lead to potential aggression against a NATO member state by the Kremlin.

In December 2023, the secretary received a diagnosis of prostate cancer and underwent a medical intervention to address it. Following the procedure, which involved general anesthesia and a one-day hospitalization at Walter Reed hospital, Austin experienced complications post-surgery and returned to the medical facility on New Year’s Day.

The unexpected hospitalization, undisclosed to the Biden administration and media for several days, has sparked significant concerns regarding transparency within the White House. Numerous Republicans have voiced their dissatisfaction with the Pentagon’s handling of the defense secretary’s illness. Austin is scheduled to testify before the Congress’ Armed Services Committee regarding the issue at the end of this month.

On Tuesday, Austin was discharged from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, following doctors’ advice to resume his duties remotely.

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