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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin resumes duties after medical procedure

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during his meeting with Kenya's President William Ruto at the Pentagon in Washington, Friday, May 24, 2024. The Associated Press/Photo by Susan Walsh

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin resumes duties after medical procedure

Austin on Friday night resumed acting as secretary of defense following a successful medical  procedure that lasted about two and a half hours, according to a Pentagon statement. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks briefly took over Austin’s duties and served as acting secretary of defense.

What kind of procedure will he undergo? The Pentagon described the treatment as a scheduled, elective, and minimally invasive follow-up non-surgical procedure related to a previously reported bladder issue. The procedure was set to occur at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. It was unrelated to his previous diagnosis of cancer and is expected to have no effect on his cancer prognosis, which remains excellent, according to the Pentagon’s statement.

Why is this being publicized? Austin was criticized earlier this year for undergoing medical procedures in December and January without notifying the White House or the public. On Dec. 22, Austin underwent a minimally invasive procedure to treat prostate cancer. During that time, he was under general anesthesia. He returned home the next morning, according to a Pentagon statement.

On Jan. 1, Austin was re-hospitalized for complications from that procedure and temporarily admitted to the intensive care unit. He was treated and ultimately released from the hospital on Jan. 15, according to the Pentagon.

On both occasions, Austin transferred the duties and responsibilities of his office to Hicks but did not immediately notify the White House or other national security leaders. In the case of the January procedure, it was days before the White House was informed. Austin ultimately apologized for failing to communicate.

Dig deeper: Read Daniel R. Suhr’s column for WORLD Opinions arguing that Austin was asleep at the nuclear switch during these incidents.

Travis K. Kircher

Travis is the associate breaking news editor for WORLD.

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