Defense Minister released from hospital after complications from an operation he kept secret

(Cliff Owen/Associated Press)

Defense Minister released from hospital after complications from an operation he kept secret


January 15, 2024

Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III was released from the hospital on Monday after spending two weeks there treating complications from a prostate cancer surgery that he kept secret for weeks from senior Biden administration leaders and staff.

He will work from home while he recovers, and his doctors said he has made good progress during his stay and his strength is recovering.” They said in a statement that the cancer was treated early and his prognosis is excellent.

Austin, 70, was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in December. 22 and underwent surgery to treat the cancer, which was discovered during a routine screening earlier this month. A week later he developed an infection and was hospitalized and admitted to intensive care on January 1.

Dr. John Maddox, the medical director of trauma, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, director of the Center for Prostate Disease Research at Walter Reed, said that during Austin’s hospitalization he underwent medical tests and was treated for persistent leg pain. They said he needs to do physiotherapy, but there are no plans for further cancer treatment apart from regular check-ups.

President Biden and senior administration officials were not informed of Austin’s hospitalization until January 4, and Austin kept the cancer diagnosis a secret until

Tuesday 9 Jan

. Biden has said Austin’s failure to tell him about the hospitalization was an error in judgment, but the Democratic president insists he still has confidence in his Pentagon chief.

During Austin’s time at Walter Reed, the U.S. late last week launched a series of military strikes against the Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen, targeting dozens of locations linked to their campaign of attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea. From his hospital bed, Austin juggled senior military leaders, including Gen. Erik Kurilla, head of U.S. Central Command, and meetings at the White House to assess, order and ultimately review the attacks via secure video.

However, the lack of transparency about Austin’s hospitalization has led the administration and Defense Department to revise procedures for notifying the White House and others if a Cabinet member needs to transfer decision-making authority to a deputy, like Austin did during his first surgery and part of his last hospital stay. And the White House chief of staff directed Cabinet members to notify his office if they were ever unable to perform their duties.

Austin’s secrecy also drew criticism from members of Congress on both sides of the political aisle, and Rep. Mike Rogers, an Alabama Republican and chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he has opened a formal investigation into the matter. Others openly called for Austin’s resignation, but the White House has said the Pentagon chief’s job is safe.

It is still unclear when Austin will return to his Pentagon office or how his cancer treatment will affect his work, travel and other public activities in the future. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has taken on some of his daily duties while he recovers.


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