The Pentagon announced that US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, whose secret hospitalization sparked controversy, was admitted to the hospital again on Sunday and delegated his duties to his deputy.
The official, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and recently underwent surgery, was transferred to a military facility on the outskirts of Washington due to an “urgent bladder problem,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in a statement.
“At approximately 4:55 p.m. today, Secretary Austin transferred the Department’s duties to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. She is taking over “duties” for Mr. Austin, the spokesman continued, adding that Mr. Austin is still receiving treatment and the White House and Congress have been informed.
Hours earlier, the Pentagon had indicated that Mr. Austin “went to the hospital with the necessary classified and unclassified communications systems” to carry out his duties.
During a press conference on February 1, the Minister of Defense apologized for concealing his cancer diagnosis, which caused an uproar in the country.
Because in the middle of an election year and with the United States, the world's leading military power, closely following two major conflicts in Ukraine and the Gaza Strip, Mr. Austin underwent surgery and was hospitalized twice in December and January without President Joe Biden. He doesn't know anything about it.
“It was a mistake,” the minister admitted during this press conference, in which he introduced himself with a steady gait.
Mr. Austin noted that he apologized “directly” to Mr. Biden and that the latter responded “with grace.”
This issue raised eyebrows even in the Democratic camp and sparked calls from Republicans for Lloyd Austin's resignation.
This time, his ministry immediately announced his admission to the new hospital: the media were notified about two hours after he left for Walter Reed Hospital.
The controversy over his health problems came at a time when US forces in Iraq and Syria are regularly subjected to attacks from Iranian-backed fighters, according to Washington.