Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Hospitalized, Deputy Assumes Duties

Austin confronts health challenges, addresses public and president.

by Nouman Rasool
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Hospitalized, Deputy Assumes Duties
© Drew Angerer/Getty Images

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was readmitted to a hospital this past Sunday because of concerns over an "emergent bladder issue," Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder confirmed. Ryder said in a message widely disseminated Thursday evening that around 4:55 p.m., Secretary Austin handed off his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

This development comes after a series of health scares experienced by Secretary Austin. He had to go through a minimally invasive surgery for prostate cancer in December last year. But unfortunately, it led to urinary infection and severe bowel complications which needed another hospital stay on the 1st of January.

This once again sparked criticism and further scrutiny over the "secrecy" surrounding his health status, considering how the fact was delayed once more to communicate this to the White House.

Austin's Candid Admission

Austin had earlier, this month, addressed the concerns where he regretted that he forgot to inform President Joe Biden and the American people that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

He was to accept the blame for that, and equally apologized to his team and the American people for having failed to do so in good time. "Austin, who has struggled with health issues, said the diagnosis held personal resonance.

He described it as a "gut punch," particularly resonating with the experiences of many in the Black community, and said his natural inclination would be to keep his health issues private. And through all of that, President Biden has continued to express confidence in Austin, even as he has not held back from noting that, in the end, delayed communication was an error of judgment.

Austin, in turn, has reportedly done his part as well, apologizing directly to the President in a deep sense of remorse for not having shared his diagnosis earlier. In the aftermath of these developments, an internal review has now been instituted and an investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general launched.

The key concern is to learn about the circumstances of Austin's health disclosures and the procedural aspects on how this information was handled within the Defense Department.