Austin Remains in Hospital, Expected to Attend NATO Meeting Virtually

Andrew Thornebrooke
By Andrew Thornebrooke
February 12, 2024US News
Austin Remains in Hospital, Expected to Attend NATO Meeting Virtually
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks during a news conference at the Pentagon in Arlington, Va., on Feb. 1, 2024. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin remains in the hospital following an emergency procedure related to his bladder, the Pentagon has said.

Mr. Austin is expected to virtually attend a NATO defense ministerial and meeting of the Ukraine Contact Group later in the week, though it is not yet clear whether he will do so from home or from the hospital, said Pentagon Spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.

Gen. Ryder told reporters on Feb. 12 that Mr. Austin was still in the intensive care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, where he was transported Sunday afternoon, but is in “good condition.”

“He’s in good condition, according to his doctors,” Gen. Ryder said.

“I can assure you the secretary continues to be eager to perform his duties. I have no doubt of that.”

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks is currently conducting the responsibilities of the secretary, he added.

“She has assumed the duties and functions of the secretary of defense, and so, in that sense, she is acting as the secretary of defense,” Gen. Ryder said.

Gen. Ryder could not confirm whether this meant that Ms. Hicks has also become sixth in line in the presidential succession.

Austin Investigated for Transparency Issues

Mr. Austin informed the White House that he was being taken to the hospital early in the afternoon on Sunday, at which point he also transferred his authorities to Ms. Hicks, the general said. The secretary has not yet spoken with the president about the issue, he said.

Gen. Ryder would not clarify whether the “emergent bladder issue” which plagued the secretary was related to complications from surgery related to his cancer, or was something entirely different.

The episode follows a contentious saga early in the year in which Mr. Austin was hospitalized for cancer and surgery complications multiple times without informing President Joe Biden or explaining to Ms. Hicks why she was being given his authority.

Mr. Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and underwent a prostatectomy on Dec. 22. He was rushed to the hospital again for emergency surgery due to complications at the end of the month.

The White House wasn’t told of the hospitalization until Jan. 4. Congress wasn’t notified of the situation until Jan. 5, and the White House didn’t learn of the cancer diagnosis until Jan. 9.

Democrats and Republicans alike expressed deep concern over the incident, as Mr. Austin holds military command authority second only to the president. The incident is currently being investigated by the Pentagon.

The White House has since issued a memorandum mandating that Cabinet heads inform the president when they are unable to perform their duties or are delegating them for another reason.

Gen. Ryder said that Mr. Austin’s cancer was “detected very early” and that the most recent hospitalization was not expected to interfere with his recovery.

Relatedly, he said, Mr. Austin was experiencing lingering pains related to the surgeries, but was not expected to require any further treatment for his cancer.

“His current bladder issue is not anticipated to change his expected full recovery from cancer,” Gen. Ryder said.

“All indications from the doctors’ statements is that he’s going to recover well.”

From The Epoch Times

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