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Lloyd Austin will hand off Pentagon duties while undergoing procedure

Nick Wadhams, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will turn over his authorities to his deputy while he undergoes a medical procedure linked to a bladder issue that left him hospitalized for two weeks in January.

Doctors will perform “a scheduled, elective, and minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure related to his previously reported bladder issue,” Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said. Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks, will serve as acting secretary of Defense during the procedure, which is set to take place later Friday.

Ryder’s statement highlighting the procedure and the transfer of power was issued as part of a policy of greater transparency after Austin and his team came under sharp criticism for not publicly disclosing the January hospital stay or a diagnosis of prostate cancer he’d received days before. He had also kept the diagnosis from President Joe Biden.

Austin developed the bladder issue after undergoing surgery for his prostate cancer. About a month later, he said his decision not to reveal his condition was “more about privacy than secrecy,” though he apologized to Biden.


A Pentagon review of the episode concluded Austin and his team never acted with ill intent for refusing to disclose his medical condition. But the Defense Department put new procedures in place to make sure Congress and the White House are notified when such events happen.

Ryder said White House and congressional notifications had been made for Friday’s procedure and the Pentagon would provide an update after it takes place. Austin’s cancer diagnosis remains excellent, Ryder said.

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