Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was released from a Washington, DC, hospital Monday, two weeks after experiencing complications from surgery to treat prostate cancer — and keeping it from his subordinates at the Pentagon and his boss at the White House.
In a statement, Austin’s doctors said the 70-year-old would continue to work remotely “for a period of time” and undergo physical therapy, but is expected to make a full recovery
Austin was rushed to Walter Reed National Military Hospital on the night of Jan. 1 in severe pain from a urinary tract infection – a complication from a prostatectomy he had undergone Dec. 22 – but failed to inform the White House of his resulting hospitalization until Jan. 4.
Instead, he quietly transferred his authorities to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Jan. 2 — without telling her or any of his other Pentagon colleagues of the reason behind it.
Hicks, who was vacationing in Puerto Rico at the time, did not learn of Austin’s hospitalization for another two days.
The Pentagon announced Austin’s hospitalization in a Friday news dump the evening of Jan. 5, but the defense secretary kept the full story of his hospitalization quiet until this past Tuesday, when his Walter Reed doctors released a statement that was news to both the Pentagon and the White House.
The secrecy caused outrage on Capitol Hill, with members of Congress noting Austin had gone dark at a time when the US is grappling with fallout from wars in Ukraine and the Middle East — carrying out airstrikes against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen while the defense secretary was laid up. (edited)
Despite the backlash, the White House expressed confidence in Austin, with National Security Council spokesman John Kirby telling MSNBC Friday: “We’re all going to learn from this event, but the defense secretary’s going to stay in office.”
While touring Allentown, Pa. Friday afternoon, President Biden told reporters “I do” when asked if he still had confidence in Austin — but also answered “yes” when asked if Austin had shown a lapse in judgement by not informing him of his illness.
This is a developing story. Check back for updates.