Breaking: Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Transfers Power Hours After Return to Hospital

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Written By Maya Cantina

The Pentagon announced Sunday evening that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin transferred power to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks hours after being hospitalized Sunday afternoon with suspected bladder issues. The Pentagon had initially said Austin was retaining the powers of SecDef in an earlier statement.

Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland on Sunday by his security detail.

Austin is suffering complications from surgery for prostate cancer that put him in the hospital for several weeks starting in late December. Austin kept his illness and hospitalization secret from Joe Biden, much of his staff and the public, prompting calls for his resignation. When Austin returned to the Pentagon in late January he had a noticeable limp.

Secretary Austin spoke to reporters about his hospitalization on February 1, 2024, file screen image.

Statement From Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder on Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s Health Status
Feb. 11, 2024

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following update on Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III’s health status:

Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue. He is still at the hospital and receiving treatment. At approximately 4:55 pm today, Secretary Austin transferred the functions and duties of the office of the Secretary of Defense to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks. The Deputy Secretary of Defense has assumed the functions and duties. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House, and Congress have been notified.

We will provide additional updates on Secretary Austin’s condition as soon as possible.

Earlier statement by the Pentagon:

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder provided the following statement:

Today, at approximately 2:20 pm, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue. The Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications have occurred.

At this time, the Secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office. The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense, if required. Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties.

We will provide an update on Secretary Austin’s condition as soon as possible.

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