Pentagon Press Secretary Major Gen. Pat Ryder announced on Monday that duties in the Secretary of Defense's office have been transferred to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks after US Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III was hospitalised for symptoms of bladder issue.
Secretary Austin was transported to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday afternoon at approximately 2:20 pm (local time)
In a post on X, Pentagon Press Secretary Major Gen. Pat Ryder said, "Secretary of Defence Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue. He is still at the hospital and receiving treatment
He further stated, "At approximately 4:55 pm on February 11, Secretary Austin transferred the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense's office to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. Hicks has assumed these responsibilities, with notifications extended to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House, and Congress."
The Pentagon confirmed that both the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were promptly notified of the situation, along with notifications to the White House and Congress. Despite the health setback, Secretary Austin retains the functions and duties of his office at this time.
Maj. Gen. Ryder assured that additional updates regarding Secretary Austin's condition will be provided in due course.
Secretary Austin's health setback follows a recent history of medical challenges. In December, he underwent a minimally invasive surgical procedure for prostate cancer, which led to complications including a urinary tract infection and serious intestinal issues.
His subsequent hospitalization on January 1 raised questions over the delayed notification to the White House and the public.
Addressing the issue, Secretary Austin acknowledged his failure to promptly disclose his cancer diagnosis to President Joe Biden and the American public.
He expressed regret for keeping the matter private initially, citing his reserved nature and reluctance to burden others.
President Biden, while expressing confidence in Austin's capabilities, criticized the delay in notification as a "lapse in judgment."
Secretary Austin directly apologized to President Biden for the delayed disclosure, expressing deep regret for not informing him immediately about his diagnosis.
As Secretary Austin's condition continues to be monitored at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks assumes the duties of the Secretary of Defense's office. (ANI)