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Lloyd Austin handed off Pentagon duties while undergoing procedure

Nick Wadhams, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

WASHINGTON — U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin briefly turned over his duties to his deputy on Friday while he underwent a medical procedure linked to an issue that left him hospitalized for two weeks in January.

The secretary had a “successful, elective, and minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure related to his bladder issue” at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland for about two and a half hours, Defense Department spokesman Pat Ryder said in a statement Friday night.

Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks, became acting secretary of Defense during that time. Austin resumed his authority after the procedure and went home, Ryder said, adding no changes are expected to the secretary’s participation in scheduled Memorial Day events.

The statements highlighting the procedure and the transfer of power were 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, 70, developed the bladder problem after undergoing surgery for 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 occur.

Austin’s cancer prognosis remains excellent, Ryder said earlier Friday.

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