U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized Sunday with a bladder problem, less than a month after he was released from care for complications from prostate cancer.
Austin’s security detail brought him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center outside Washington with “symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in a statement. He didn’t elaborate on the illness.
Austin hasn’t transferred the authorities of his job, Ryder said. The White House and Congress were notified.
The fresh health scare comes weeks after Austin provoked an uproar for failing to disclose for several days that he’d been hospitalized on New Year’s Day for complications from prostate-cancer surgery.
Austin, 70, was released from that hospitalization on Jan. 15 after about two weeks. He later apologized for his secrecy around the illness, including his failure to notify President Joe Biden of his prostate cancer diagnosis for several days. He returned to work at the Pentagon on Jan. 29 for the first time in almost a month.
The secrecy set off criticism from Congress as lawmakers demanded explanations from Austin. The Pentagon’s internal watchdog said it would investigate whether the Defense Department’s procedures are sufficient to ensure appropriate notifications and transfer of authority if a senior leader falls ill.
The White House said Austin had shown a lapse in judgment, though Biden said that he had confidence in Austin and wouldn’t ask him to resign.
Austin’s hospital stay drew particular attention because it occurred while U.S. troops and commercial shipping faced attacks from Iran-backed militants in the Middle East, including Houthi rebels in Yemen who have been targeting vessels around the Red Sea. A day before Austin returned to the Pentagon, three U.S. service members were killed at an outpost in Jordan that Biden blamed on Iranian-supported groups.
After Austin’s first hospitalization, White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients detailed new procedures around absences, including that cabinet members must notify the White House chief of staff and the Office of Cabinet Affairs ahead of a hospitalization or medical procedure which requires general anesthesia.
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