The Pentagon announced on Sunday that Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, due to symptoms suggestive of an emergent bladder issue.
According to the initial statements by Pentagon spokesman Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, Austin arrived at 2:20 p.m. and informed the deputy defense secretary, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House, and members of Congress about his condition.
In a follow-up statement on Sunday evening, General Ryder revealed that Austin, 70, temporarily transferred the functions and duties of his office to Deputy Defense Secretary, Kathleen H. Hicks, around 4:55 p.m.
Background: Recent Health Issues and Surgery
This hospitalization follows the events from last month when Austin spent several days at Walter Reed receiving treatment for complications related to recent prostate cancer surgery.
At that time, he faced criticism for not informing top administration officials about his hospital visit and surgery in December.
Senior doctors at Walter Reed, John Maddox, and Gregory Chesnut, released a statement late on Sunday regarding Austin’s current circumstances.
They indicated that after a series of tests, Austin had been admitted to the hospital’s critical care unit. As of now, no concrete timeline exists for his discharge from the hospital.
However, both doctors reassured the public that this bladder complication is not expected to affect Austin’s full recovery, and his prostate cancer prognosis remains excellent.
A Shift Towards Transparency
Austin’s hospitalization this time around highlighted a notable change in transparency compared to last month’s stay.
The announcement of his medical condition aimed to provide a clear view of his health status to officials and the public.
His previously undisclosed surgery had sparked widespread criticism when President Biden and other high-ranking officials were not informed of his absence.
Lawmakers demanded answers from the Pentagon, questioning why numerous officials within and outside the organization were not informed.
On January 12, President Biden asserted that he still had confidence in Austin.
However, when asked if Austin’s lack of communication demonstrated poor judgment, the president candidly responded, “yes.”
A Storied Career
Lloyd Austin, a retired four-star Army general who once commanded the United States Central Command, has served in the military for over 40 years. He was appointed as the top Pentagon official in 2021.
Throughout his illustrious career, Austin remained relatively private, avoiding publicity, and keeping many aspects of his personal life out of the public eye.
The recent events and subsequent open communication regarding Austin’s health mark a new era of transparency for both him and the Pentagon.
Joe Wallace is a writer and editor from Illinois. He was an editor and producer for Air Force Television News for 13 years, and has served as Managing Editor for publications including Gearwire.com, and Associate Editor for FHANewsBlog.com. He is also an experienced book and script editor specializing in non-fiction and documentary filmmaking