Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has assumed the secretary’s functions and duties.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, who was readmitted to hospital on Sunday afternoon, has been transferred to the 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,” had been found needing further “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. over his bladder symptoms, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in an initial announcement on the secretary’s hospitalization.
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 received a prostate cancer diagnosis the previous month. The health update only came after he had to be hospitalized for a urinary tract infection following surgical complications from the procedure, for which he underwent 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
Maj. 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, Maj. 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 on Mr. Austin’s condition that they expect him to make a full recovery.