New Delhi: Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III was hospitalized on Sunday afternoon with an “emergent bladder issue”, according to a statement from the Pentagon. He has transferred his duties to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks while he undergoes treatment. The statement, issued by Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, said that Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center at around 2:20 pm by his security detail. He was seen for symptoms suggesting a bladder problem, which could be related to his previous prostate cancer surgery.
Ryder said that the Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were notified of Austin’s condition, as well as the White House and Congress. He initially said that Austin would retain his duties as defense secretary while in the hospital, but later updated that Austin had transferred the functions and duties of the office to Hicks.
Austin, who is 71 years old, was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2020 and underwent surgery in January 2021. He was hospitalized for two weeks following complications from the operation, including a urinary tract infection. He returned to work in-person at the Pentagon at the end of January, and said that he was still recovering.
Austin is the first African American to serve as the defense secretary, and was confirmed by the Senate in a 93-2 vote on January 22, 2021. He is a retired four-star general who served in the Army for 41 years, and was the commander of the U.S. Central Command from 2013 to 2016.
Austin was scheduled to travel to Brussels, Belgium, this week for a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, in what would be his first overseas trip since his initial hospitalization. It is unclear if he will be able to attend the meeting, which is aimed at addressing the security situation in Ukraine amid Russian aggression.