Lloyd Austin, whose several secret hospitalizations have sparked controversy, was again admitted to hospital on Sunday for “an urgent bladder problem», before delegating his duties to his assistant.
The Secretary of Defense, whose several secret hospitalizations have sparked controversy, was again admitted to the hospital on Sunday for “an urgent bladder problem”before delegating his functions to his deputy, announced the Pentagon.
Since Sunday, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has been serving as head of the Pentagon, department spokesperson Pat Ryder said in a statement.
A few hours earlier, however, the Pentagon had indicated that Mr. Austin had “delivered to the hospital with the necessary classified and unclassified communications systems” to carry out its functions.
Lloyd Austin, who was diagnosed with prostate cancer and recently underwent surgery, was again admitted to Walter Reed military hospital in suburban Washington for “an urgent bladder problem”announced Pat Ryder, adding that the minister was still receiving treatment and that the White House and Congress had been informed.
During a press conference on February 1, for having kept his cancer a secret, an affair which caused an uproar in the country.
Because in the middle of an election year and while the United States, the world’s leading military power, is closely following two major conflicts in and in , the septuagenarian was operated on and hospitalized twice in December and January without President Joe Biden know nothing about it.
“It was a mistake”the minister admitted during this press briefing to which he presented himself with a still stiff gait. “I should have informed the president of my cancer diagnosis. I should have told my team and the American people as well and I take full responsibility for that. I apologize to my colleagues and to the American people., he added. The minister, however, wanted to say “very clearly that there was no power vacuum and (that there was) no risk to the command and control of the ministry”.
He indicated that he had “directly” apologized to Mr. Biden and that the latter had reacted “with grace”.
Astonishment and calls for resignation
The affair had caused astonishment even in the Democratic camp and sparked calls from Republicans for the resignation of Lloyd Austin. This time, his ministry promptly communicated about his new hospitalization: the media were informed about two hours after his departure for the hospital.
The controversy over his health problems also arose when American forces in Iraq and Syria are regularly targeted by attacks by fighters supported by Iran, according to Washington.
The top US defense official is also a key figure in the Biden administration’s efforts to maintain support for Ukraine in its conflict with Russia, as congressional Republicans refuse to authorize new funding for military aid to Kiev.
Several Republican parliamentarians called for his dismissal, but Mr. Biden, while deploring the lack of discernment of the head of the Pentagon, declared that he retained his confidence in him.
Mr. Austin gained a reputation as a largely apolitical official, very comfortable with American troops. Of imposing stature, he is very discreet and avoids the limelight, which he believes played a role in his decision to keep his cancer diagnosis a secret.