Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was readmitted to hospital on Sunday afternoon, has been transferred to a critical care unit, according to an update from the Pentagon on Feb. 11.
Officials at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center said in a statement that Mr. Austin, who had earlier been admitted to the hospital for an “emergent bladder issue,” needed “supportive care and close monitoring” in the military hospital’s critical care unit.
The decision was made following a series of tests and evaluations on Mr. Austin’s condition.
Mr. Austin was transported to Walter Reed by his security detail and admitted at around 2:20 p.m. due to his bladder symptoms, according to an initial announcement on the secretary’s hospitalization by Pentagon press secretary, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder.
He added that the deputy secretary of defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff had been notified of the hospitalization, following earlier criticism that Mr. Austin had kept secret a hospitalization he had undergone in December.
Mr. Austin revealed in January that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer the previous month. This health update came only after he was hospitalized for a urinary tract infection, which followed surgical complications from a procedure that required general anesthesia.
The secretary later took full responsibility for the lack of timely notification but said he had no plans to resign. The White House said it was not considering firing Mr. Austin over the incident.
White House Notified
Gen. Ryder said on Sunday that the White House and members of Congress had also been notified of the secretary’s condition.
“The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense if required,” he said. “Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties.”
Two hours later, Gen. Ryder released a second update, announcing that Mr. Austin had transferred his duties to his deputy.
“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,” he said. “The Deputy Secretary of Defense has assumed the functions and duties.”
The doctors at Walter Reed said in the latest update that they expect Mr. Austin to make a full recovery.
“At this time, it is not clear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized,” they said. “The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery. His cancer prognosis remains excellent. Updates on the Secretary’s condition will be provided as soon as possible.”
He is scheduled to testify at a House Armed Services Committee hearing on Feb. 29 regarding his failure to communicate about an earlier hospitalization and for delegating critical national security powers without informing the White House or Congress for several days.
Ryan Morgan contributed to this report.