US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin takes questions during a press conference at the Pentagon in Washington, DC, on February 1, 2024.
Andrew Caballero-reynolds | Afp | Getty Images
Austin is battling prostate cancer and has been recovering from surgery over the past few months.
He is currently retaining all responsibilities of his post, the Pentagon said. On his way to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, Austin brought along all “unclassified and classified communication systems necessary to perform his duties,” according to Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is on standby to assume any of Austin’s functions, should that become necessary.
The Pentagon made clear that the White House and Congress have been notified of the Sunday hospitalization, avoiding a repeat of a December incident when Austin and his staff failed to inform top government officials that Austin was in the intensive care unit for complications related to his cancer surgery.
In January, Austin came under fire after the Pentagon waited days to inform the White House and the public that he was in the ICU for unknown reasons at the time. Doctors at Walter Reed later disclosed the prostate cancer diagnosis and released details of his hospital visits.
Still, several lawmakers called on Austin to resign for the lack of transparency, though the White House rebuked those demands and doubled down on its support for the Defense Secretary as he battles cancer.
Austin’s re-hospitalization on Sunday comes just over a week after he publicly apologized for hiding that earlier hospital visit and pledged to be more transparent.
“We did not handle this right. And I did not handle this right. I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility,” Austin said at a Pentagon briefing.