Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was hospitalized Sunday with an apparent bladder condition. The event precipitated a transfer of authority and was reminiscent of Austin’s disappearance around Christmas, leading to concerns about Pentagon leadership and readiness.
Austin is reportedly at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in relation to complications related to an undisclosed bladder issue. The secretary informed other officers in the Pentagon, as well as leaders in the executive and legislative branches in a significantly different action compared to several weeks ago.
While the initial statement indicated Austin would attempt to hold his authority, later reports said that he would hand over control temporarily to the deputy secretary of defense.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks reportedly assumed the secretary’s duties during his time in the hospital.
Deputy U.S. Secretary of Defense, Kathleen Hicks has assumed the Powers and Duties of the Secretary of Defense, as Secretary Austin’s Trip earlier today to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland appears to have been much more Significant than initially… pic.twitter.com/3urMYlkDAu
— OSINTdefender (@sentdefender) February 12, 2024
Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said Sunday that Austin “traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his.”
“We will provide an update on Secretary Austin’s condition as soon as possible,” wrote Ryder.
Austin entered Walter Reed on Jan. 1 for prostate cancer surgery following a December surgery. The defense secretary did not inform the president or other Department of Defense officials at the time. Hicks was reportedly on vacation at the time.
Congressional Republicans created a formal inquiry into Austin’s first hospital visit and why he did not inform the president.
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers said that his committee would investigate why Austin did not reveal his hospitalization.
Rogers called the Defense Secretary’s conduct “outrageous.”
“With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own Deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable,” Rogers wrote.
The Alabama Republican cited concerns about terrorism and “nuclear command and control” operations.
“The Department is a robust institution, and it is designed to function under attack by our enemies, but it is not designed for a Secretary who conceals being incapacitated,” said Rogers.