Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for symptoms “suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” and administration officials have been notified, the Pentagon said Sunday.
The rapid notification of Austin’s visit to the hospital – the first statement from the Pentagon was released within three hours – came after the defense secretary acknowledged failures in notifying the administration and the public about his previous hospitalization.
Austin was taken by his security detail to the hospital at approximately 2:20 p.m. ET Sunday, Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a statement. At this point, Austin has not been admitted to the hospital.
The White House and Congress have been notified of the hospital visit, as have the deputy defense secretary and the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.
“We will provide an update on Secretary Austin’s condition as soon as possible,” Ryder said.
As of now, Austin retains the duties of his office, Ryder said, though Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks is ready to assume the duties if required. Austin traveled to the hospital with unclassified and classified communications systems that are required for his duties.
Austin was diagnosed with prostate cancer in early December and underwent a procedure to treat the cancer on December 22. That procedure required general anesthesia and an overnight stay at Walter Reed.
He then returned to the hospital on New Year’s Day after suffering from complications as a result of the procedure.
Austin’s unannounced hospitalization, which was not disclosed to the media or President Joe Biden and other senior administration officials for days, raised major questions about transparency within the administration. Republicans have been highly critical of how the Pentagon handled Austin’s illness, and the defense secretary is scheduled to testify to the House Armed Services Committee at the end of the month about his failure to notify key government leaders.
Austin remained in the hospital for two weeks, then worked from home for another two weeks as he continued his recovery.
On February 1, in his first news conference since his hospitalization, Austin acknowledged that his handling of the diagnosis and the hospitalization was a mistake.
“We did not handle this right, 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 said.
Last week, the Office of the Secretary of Defense completed a 30-day review of the notification procedures around a transfer of responsibilities.
At a news briefing Thursday, Ryder said Austin has received the review and is reviewing it. Ryder also said much of the review is classified, but the Pentagon would try to make public as much as possible.
“We remain committed to being as transparent as possible about the review, and we’ll have more information once the secretary’s review is complete,” Ryder said.
This story has been updated with additional details.