Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Out Again With Medical Issues
US Secretary of Defence Lloyd Austin looks on during a joint press conference with Israel's defence minister, in Tel Aviv on December 18, 2023.
ALBERTO PIZZOLI / AFP via Getty Images

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is transferring his role to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks today as he prepares to undergo elective surgery.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in a statement that Austin will undergo a “minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure” that is related to his previous bladder issue.

The procedure will take place this evening at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

“The Secretary has determined he will be temporarily unable to perform his functions and duties during the procedure, so Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense and serve as the Acting Secretary of Defense,” Ryder said.

Austin was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in February after receiving treatment for a bladder issue that also prompted him to transfer his duties to his deputy.

Austin, 70, faced blowback after the revelation that the secretary had been hospitalized on January 1 for complications stemming from a prostate cancer procedure and delegated some of his duties to a deputy without informing top brass in the Biden administration and Congress.

Some critics, including GOP lawmakers and former President Donald Trump, called for Austin’s ouster as more details emerged, including that Austin kept his cancer diagnosis under wraps until the story broke. Multiple inquiries ensued, and the White House released new guidelines for Cabinet secretaries to enhance transparency rules when authority is delegated to a subordinate.


The Department of Defense said Austin resumed his duties from home after being released from the hospital on January 15, and the secretary returned to work at the Pentagon on January 29. Austin testified before a House committee about “his failure to disclose his hospitalization” on February 29.

During a press conference, Austin expressed remorse for how his cancer diagnosis and hospitalization were handled.

“We did not handle this right, and I did not handle this right,” Austin said. “I should’ve told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public. And I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.”

Daniel Chaitin contributed to this report.

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