He United States Secretary of DefenseLloyd Austin, who fights a prostate cancerwas admitted to a unit of intensive care after being hospitalized for “urgent bladder problem“, the Pentagon reported on Sunday.
“Tonight, after a series of tests and evaluations, the Secretary was admitted to the intensive care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring,” the statement said.
Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks “assumed duties and functions” just before 5:00 p.m. (22:00 GMT), Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder said in a statement, adding that the White House was informed of hospitalization.
Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer and recently underwent surgery.
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He secretary of defense disappeared from the public scene at the end of December and again at the beginning of January after suffering complications in cancer treatmenthaving initially hidden both the diagnosis As the treatment to President Joe Biden and the rest of the government.
This time, the public was alerted about two hours after Austin was sent to the hospital on Sunday afternoon.
Austin was taken by his security team to the medical center “to be treated for symptoms that suggested an emerging bladder problem,” Ryder said.
Ryder previously said that Austin maintained “the duties and obligations of his position” but hours later he indicated that Hicks would assume the position.
“At this time, it is unclear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized,” according to a statement released later, citing doctors John Maddox and Gregory Chesnut of the hospital.
“The current bladder problem is not expected to change his expected full recovery. His prognosis for cancer remains excellent,” they added.
The Defense Secretary apologized earlier this month after being heavily criticized for keeping previous hospitalizations a secret.
“I should have informed the president of my cancer diagnosis“he told reporters on February 1.
At the time, he said he was still recovering, his legs were hurting and he was using a golf cart to get around. Pentagon.
These absences, as well as the current hospital stay, come at a time when the United States faces a spiral of crisis in the middle eastwith US forces in Iraq and Syria facing almost daily attacks from Iranian-backed fighters in retaliation for Washington’s strong support for Israel.
The senior US official is also a key figure in the Biden administration’s attempts to maintain support for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion, in a context in which Republican congressmen refuse to authorize new funds for military aid to Kiev. .
Several Republican lawmakers previously called for Austin’s ouster, but Biden, while regretting the Pentagon chief’s error in judgment, has said he remains confident in his defense secretary.
Austin, an imposing man over 6 feet tall, is a very private person who shies away from media attention, which, he said, influenced his decision to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret.
But he admitted that “taking on this kind of work means losing some of the privacy that most of us expect.”
“The American people have the right to know if their leaders are facing health problems that could affect their ability to perform their duties, even temporarily,” he added.