“White House is informed”
US Secretary of Defense Austin back in hospital
February 11, 2024, 11:52 p.m
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US Secretary of Defense Austin is in the hospital again because of an acute bladder problem. The Pentagon chief had previously come under fire for concealing prostate cancer treatment. This time the White House is informed.
US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is in the hospital and has handed over his duties to Deputy Kathleen Hicks. On Sunday afternoon (local time), Pentagon spokesman Pat Ryder initially announced that Austin had been taken to a military clinic near Washington at 2:20 p.m. with symptoms of an acute bladder problem. A few hours later it was said that Deputy Hicks had taken over his duties at 4:55 p.m.
The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House and Congress have been informed. The Pentagon will provide information about Austin’s health as soon as possible, spokesman Ryder said. Previously it was said that the minister had the necessary means of communication with him to carry out his duties from the hospital.
Intervention covered up
At the beginning of the year, the top politician came under criticism for keeping prostate cancer and a hospital stay as a result of complications from a procedure a secret. Even US President Joe Biden didn’t know for several days that his minister was in the hospital – but later confirmed that he wanted to stick with him. Austin was released from the hospital on January 15th and then returned to work at the Pentagon at the end of January, where he received NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on the same day. Austin also used the meeting to comment on his health. “I’m feeling and recovering well, but I’m still getting fit again,” assured the 70-year-old.
In the United States, it is common practice for the public to be very closely informed about the health of its top politicians. When it became known that Austin had kept his hospital stay secret, the question arose as to who would actually have the authority in the Pentagon if the defense secretary was absent, given international crises such as the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and the tense situation in the Middle East. According to reports from US media, Austin’s deputy Hicks stepped in from vacation in Puerto Rico at the beginning of the year and took on some tasks from there.
Numerous Republicans subsequently emphasized that Austin could not be kept in office and Democrats also criticized him. The White House also expressed clear concerns about the Pentagon chief’s information policy and ordered that the procedures for such cases be reviewed. The ministry launched internal investigations to ensure that responsibilities were clear and notification chains were functioning in the event of illness.