Latest Global News | Lloyd Austin: Defence secretary returns to hospital

  • By Holly Honderich
  • in Washington

Video caption,

Watch: “I did not handle this right,” Lloyd Austin apologises

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin is back in the hospital for an “emergent bladder issue”, the Pentagon has said.

In a statement on Sunday, it said the White House had been informed.

At about 16:55 local time (21:55 GMT) Mr Austin “transferred the functions and duties of the office” to Deputy Defence Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

It comes less than a month after Mr Austin’s secretive hospital stay in December sparked controversy, for which he apologised last week.

Sunday’s brief Pentagon statement said that Mr Austin, aged 70, had earlier been “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”.

The hospital is located in Bethesda, just north-west of the capital Washington.

Late last year, Mr Austin had surgery for prostate cancer.

He was readmitted to hospital on New Year’s Day with severe pain in his leg, hip and abdomen because of complications related to the procedure. An evaluation found a urinary tract infection and he remained in hospital for more than two weeks.

Senior defence officials and the Biden administration did not know that Mr Austin was seriously ill until three days after his re-admission in January.

The incident incited concerns over both transparency and security and prompted three separate investigations into Mr Austin’s handling of his illness and hospital stays.

He has been called to testify in front of a Congressional committee about his failure to inform President Biden and other top officials this week, on 14 February.

For this most recent hospital admission, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Congress have also been notified.

The defence secretary is just below the president in the chain of command for the US military, and is regarded as one of the most important members of the cabinet.