Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was taken back to the hospital on Sunday, this time “for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue,” a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.
“At this time, the Secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office,” Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said. “The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense, if required. Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties.”
More information will be released “as soon as possible,” Ryder said.
The defense secretary previously underwent a minimally invasive surgical procedure for prostate cancer Dec. 22, which led to a urinary tract infection and serious intestinal complications. He was hospitalized again on Jan. 1, but the White House didn’t learn of it for three days — secrecy that sparked intense scrutiny and criticism.
“I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis, and should also have told my team and the American public,” Austin told reporters earlier this month. “I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.”
Austin also spoke in personal terms about his health challenges.
“The news shook me, as I know that it shakes so many others, especially in the Black community. It was a gut punch,” he said then. “And frankly, my first instinct was to keep it private. I don’t think it’s news that I’m a pretty private guy. I never like burdening others with my problems. It’s just not my way.”
President Joe Biden has publicly faulted Austin for not informing him earlier of his hospitalization after his cancer procedure, telling reporters in January that he still had confidence in Austin, but noted it was a lapse in judgement.
Austin has said he directly apologized to Biden and told him he was “deeply sorry” for not letting him know of his diagnosis immediately.
An internal review as well as an investigation by the Defense Department inspector general are ongoing.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.