The Pentagon announced Sunday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was taken to a military hospital this afternoon to be treated for “symptoms suggestive of an emerging bladder problem.”
Mr. Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, at 2:20 p.m., a Pentagon spokesman, Maj. Gen. Patrick S. Ryder, said in a statement. He added that the deputy secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been informed, as well as the White House and members of Congress.
In a second statement Sunday evening, General Ryder said Mr. Austin, 70, had “transferred the functions and duties” of his office to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen H. Hicks around 4:55 p.m.
The announcements appeared intended to be transparent about Mr. Austin's condition and to highlight the fact that several senior U.S. government officials had been briefed.
Mr. Austin faced widespread criticism last month when he visited the hospital for several days to treat complications from a recent prostate cancer operation. He initially kept his hospital visit secret from senior administration officials, including President Biden, the White House national security adviser, the secretary of state, and senior Pentagon officials, including those immediately under his command.
Mr. Austin also had not informed the president that he had undergone the first surgery in December.
Lawmakers called on the Pentagon to provide answers about why so many officials were left in the dark. Mr. Biden said on January 12 that he still had confidence in Mr. Austin. But when the president was asked whether Mr. Austin made an error of judgment in not informing him of his decommissioning, Mr. Biden replied “yes.”
Mr. Austin, a retired four-star general and former commander of U.S. Central Command, had served in the military for more than 40 years when he rose to the Pentagon's top job in 2021. Throughout Throughout his career, he sought to avoid attention and tried to keep many aspects of his life out of the public spotlight.
General Ryder said the Pentagon would provide an update on Mr. Austin's condition as soon as possible.