Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized Sunday in connection with a bladder issue, according to a statement from the Pentagon.
For the time being, Austin will continue to carry out his duties as defense secretary, according to a statement from Pentagon press secretary Major General Pat Ryder. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is prepared to step in if necessary, the statement added.
Austin’s security detail took him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he will continue to receive the “unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties,” Ryder said. Both the White House and Congress have been notified of Austin’s hospitalization.
The latest medical incident comes after Austin underwent a “minimally invasive” medical procedure in December for his prostate cancer. He later revealed he was hospitalized for several days when complications from the procedure led to a bladder infection and abdominal problems.
Austin’s December absence sparked controversy after it was revealed that many key people and government offices were unaware of Austin’s absence. Members of Congress and other key defense officials were unaware of Austin’s absence or the state of his condition for several days.
Most Pentagon staff did not know Austin was in the hospital until that Friday at 5 p.m., after Austin had already been hospitalized for several days. They instead thought he was simply on vacation.
Hicks was forced to temporarily step in for Austin for a number of days after being informed of the news while on vacation.
Earlier this month, the White House apologized for the delay in communicating Austin’s absence and health condition while the nation is facing multiple national security crises. The White House has claimed that it has added new protocols to ensure there is not a repeat of the incident.