US Defense Chief Lloyd Austin in critical care — Pentagon

US Defense Chief Lloyd Austin in critical care — Pentagon

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was hospitalized on Sunday and admitted to critical care for an emergent bladder issue, Pentagon press secretary Pat Ryder said.

"Tonight, after a series of tests and evaluations, the Secretary was admitted into the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring," the statement read.

In a statement earlier, the Pentagon said Austin was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center around 2:20 p.m. local time.

According to Ryder, Austin later transferred the duties of his office to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

"The Deputy Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications have occurred," Ryder said.

Austin's hospitalization in December

The announcement came weeks after a previous stay that was controversially kept secret. 

Austin virtually disappeared from public view in late December and early January after suffering complications from treatment for prostate surgery on December 22, initially concealing his hospitalization from President Joe Biden and the rest of the administration.

After coming under heavy political fire for keeping the previous hospital stays secret, Austin apologized earlier this month. 

"I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis," he told journalists on February 1. 

Several Republican lawmakers have previously called for Austin's ouster, but Biden, while lamenting the Pentagon chief's lapse in judgment, has said he remains confident in his defense secretary.

Austin scheduled to depart for Brussels

Austin was scheduled to depart Tuesday for Brussels to hold a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which he established in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after Russia's invasion.

After that, Austin was scheduled to attend a regular meeting of NATO defense ministers. It was not immediately clear if his hospitalization would change those plans.

dh/wd (AP, AFP, Reuters)