The US military medical center has revealed the reason for Lloyd Austin’s absence
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was treated for prostate cancer in early December and hospitalized last week for complications from the procedure, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center revealed on Tuesday. The hospital stay was kept secret from both the White House and the American public for several days.
The Pentagon first mentioned Austin’s absence last Friday, telling reporters he had resumed his duties. Over the weekend, it emerged that the former general was still at Walter Reed, working remotely, and that he hadn’t informed President Joe Biden or the National Security Council of his absence.
A Pentagon spokesman described the cause of Austin’s hospitalization as complications from an “elective surgery,” which were not disclosed due to privacy concerns.
According to a statement posted by two Walter Reed officials, Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer during a screening early last month and went in for a “minimally invasive surgical procedure” called prostatectomy on December 22.
He was under general anesthesia but “recovered uneventfully” and went home the next morning, said the statement signed by Trauma Medical Director Dr. John Maddox and Dr. Gregory Chesnut from the Center for Prostate Disease Research.
On January 1, however, Austin was readmitted with a urinary tract infection that had caused fluid accumulation in his stomach and intestines and severe pain. He was placed in an intensive care unit (ICU) the following day. The infection has since cleared, he “continues to make progress,” and the doctors anticipate a full recovery, though they noted “this can be a slow process.”
Maddox and Chesnut insisted that Austin “never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia” during the second stay at Walter Reed.
Although Austin finally spoke with the president on Saturday, he apparently hadn’t disclosed his condition at the time. Asked when Biden found out about the cancer, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that “he was informed today.” The Pentagon was informed of the diagnosis on the same day, according to Major General Pat Ryder, the Defense Department spokesman.
“As far as the situation in terms of what the elective surgery was, and the Secretary’s condition, we’re providing that information to you as we’ve received it,” Ryder told reporters.
Ryder would not say whether Austin’s chief of staff knew about his condition. Kelly Magsamen, an Obama administration veteran who came to the Pentagon from the Center for American Progress, was on sick leave last week with the flu.
Even Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, who was approached on her vacation in Puerto Rico to handle some “routine” Pentagon business, apparently did not know about Austin’s hospitalization until January 5, per CNN.
January 10, 2024 at 03:31AM