The US defense secretary, Lloyd Austin, is expected to “resume his normal duties” on Tuesday, a day after he was admitted to a hospital for what the Pentagon described as an “emergent bladder issue”.
A statement issued by the Pentagon said Austin, 70, had undergone non-surgical procedures under general anesthesia to address the bladder issue. “We anticipate a successful recovery and will closely monitor him overnight,” the statement read.
The Pentagon’s statement added that “a prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated” for Austin and that “his cancer prognosis remains excellent”.
Earlier on Monday, a US official told Reuters that Austin had cancelled a trip to Brussels for a meeting with Nato defense ministers due to be held on Thursday – as well as a separate meeting with allies for Wednesday on how to continue supporting Ukraine in countering Russia’s invasion.
Austin had transferred his duties to the deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks, after he was admitted to Walter Reed national military medical center on Sunday. He was then transferred to the critical care unit, according to a Pentagon statement.
Austin’s health became a focus of attention in January when the 70-year-old former general underwent prostate cancer surgery and was readmitted to hospital for several days because of complications – without the apparent knowledge of the White House.
Earlier, the Pentagon said that Hicks, joint chiefs of staff, White House and Congress had been notified about Lloyd’s hospitalization on Sunday. And Hicks was said to be “prepared to assume the functions and duties of the secretary of defense, if required”.
Sunday’s notification about Austin stands in stark contrast to his hospitalization in January.
Back then, the White House appeared to be unaware for three days that the defense secretary had been hospitalized.
In that instance, Austin had surgery at Reed hospital on 22 December. He was discharged the following day but had to go back to the hospital on 1 January.
It was not until 4 January that Hicks, Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, and then the president were notified of Austin’s diagnosis, treatments or hospitalization, all of which occurred amid escalating violence in the Middle East that had put the world on edge.
That prompted a political backlash, including an investigation by the defense department inspector general. The Pentagon later said the Austin’s chief of staff was sick with the flu, exacerbating the delay in information about the secretary’s medical condition.