Austin resumes Pentagon duties after minimally invasive procedure

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin resumed his powers after temporarily transferring them to his deputy as he underwent a medical procedure Friday evening.

The Pentagon announced Friday that Austin would be undergoing a “scheduled, elective, and minimally invasive” nonsurgical procedure on his bladder at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. His powers were temporarily transferred to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

The procedure began at 6 p.m. EDT and lasted approximately two and a half hours. He resumed his duties as of 8:25 p.m. EDT, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in an update. 

Austin returned home after the procedure and no changes are expected to his Memorial Day weekend scheduled events, Ryder said.

In the original announcement, Ryder said the secretary’s bladder issue is not related to his prostate cancer diagnosis and his “excellent” prognosis.

The announcement is likely an attempt for the department to be more transparent about Austin’s health, after the secretary underwent two surgeries in December and January without telling President Biden, Hicks or the public.

Once the news was out that Austin was hospitalized and placed in the intensive care unit in early January, criticism swarmed the secretary.

Austin said the news of his cancer diagnosis in late December shook him and his “first instinct was to keep it private.” He underwent a minimally invasion prostatectomy in late December, but by Jan. 1, Austin experienced complications.

He was taken back to Walter Reed and admitted to the intensive care unit with what was evaluated as a urinary tract infection. The secretary was hospitalized for several days before the Pentagon released a statement.

After facing widespread anger about his secrecy, Austin released a statement saying he could have done a better job ensuring everyone was informed but it was his responsibility to make “decisions about disclosure.” He maintained that there were “no gaps” and “no risk” to the department’s command and control.

On Feb. 1, Austin issued an apology, saying he said he did not handle the situation correctly.

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