Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to undergo nonsurgical procedure, Deputy Kathleen Hicks will assume control

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had a “scheduled, elective, and minimally invasive” nonsurgical procedure Friday evening at Walter Reed Medical Center as a follow-up for a bladder issue he had earlier this year, the Pentagon said in a release.

The procedure was unrelated to Austin’s cancer diagnosis.  

“During that period [Friday], Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks assumed the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense and served as the Acting Secretary of Defense. Secretary Austin subsequently resumed his functions and duties as the Secretary of Defense at 8:25 p.m. ET and has returned home,” Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder stated in a release Friday night.

The Pentagon said the White House and Congress had been notified, and that Austin would be temporarily unable to perform his duties during the procedure. 


Lloyd Austin

The Pentagon said Friday that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will undergo a nonsurgical procedure in the evening. (Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer and hospitalized in December and January, undergoing two surgeries, but didn’t tell the White House for several days at the time. It took even longer for the public to find out. 


Kathleen Hicks

Defense Secretary Austin will transfer power to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who will serve as the acting secretary of defense. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)

The situation led to criticism of the Pentagon’s lack of transparency and the White House established a new set of guidelines for when Cabinet heads are unable to do their job and have to delegate authority at the end of January. 

Some Republicans, including former President Trump, had called on Austin to resign.

Trump said on Truth Social in January that the defense secretary, “should be fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty. He has been missing for one week, and nobody, including his boss, Crooked Joe Biden, had a clue as to where he was or might be.” 

The White House said that Austin maintained Biden’s “full trust,” and in February the defense secretary apologized for his lack of transparency. 

President Biden, left, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, right

President Biden said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin still had his “full trust” after some Republicans called on him to be fired or resign earlier this year.  (Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images/Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

“I want to be crystal clear: We did not handle this right,” he said at the time. “And I did not handle this right. I should have 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.”

Austin was hospitalized again on Feb. 11 for a bladder issue weeks after he had returned to work following his hospitalizations for cancer treatment.  

The Pentagon added on Friday: “As highlighted in a Feb. 13 DoD news release, the Secretary’s bladder issue is not related to his cancer diagnosis and has had no effect on his excellent cancer prognosis. White House and congressional notifications have occurred.”


An update will be given following the procedure, the statement said.

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