Written by Ashton Snyder on
 May 25, 2024

Defense Secretary Austin Hands Over Duties Due to Medical Treatment

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is stepping aside temporarily once again to undergo a medical procedure.

Austin is transferring his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks as he undergoes treatment for a recurring bladder issue, as the Daily Wire reports.

The procedure was set to take place Friday at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Austin’s previous health issues and his history of handling them have drawn criticism regarding transparency.

Austin Undergoes Another Procedure

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder announced Austin’s decision to transfer his responsibilities, saying, “The Secretary has determined he will be temporarily unable to perform his functions and duties during the procedure, so Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks will assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense and serve as the Acting Secretary of Defense.”

This marks another significant moment in Austin’s ongoing health-related concerns. Previously, in February, Austin had been hospitalized for a similar bladder issue and underwent a non-surgical procedure then.

Austin's handling of his January hospitalization led to backlash. He was admitted on New Year's Day to Walter Reed for complications following a prostate cancer procedure.

Transparency Issues with Previous Hospitalization

Austin’s January hospitalization became controversial when it was revealed that he did not inform top Biden administration officials or Congress. During this period, he delegated some of his duties to his deputy without proper notification to senior officials. Austin continued to recover at home and officially resumed his duties from home on Jan. 15. He made a full return to the Pentagon on Jan. 29.

On Feb. 29, Austin testified before a House committee, addressing his failure to disclose his hospitalization details. During the testimony, he admitted to mistakes in handling his diagnosis and health information transparency.

Austin Addresses Past Mistakes

In a press conference, Austin expressed regret over his lack of communication regarding his health issues. He stated, “We did not handle this right, and I did not handle this right. I should’ve 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.”

As such, many will be observing how Austin’s medical absence impacts his role and the overall functioning of the Defense Department. This most recent transfer of duties is a significant moment in his tenure as Secretary of Defense, marking another instance of health-related duty handover in recent times.

Charges of non-disclosure from Austin’s January hospitalization had previously led to new White House guidelines on delegation of authority among Cabinet secretaries. Moving forward, transparency will likely be an area under scrutiny for Austin and other high-ranking officials.

In conclusion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has temporarily handed over his duties to Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks due to a minimally invasive procedure at Walter Reed Medical Center.

This follows previous health issues, including a controversial January hospitalization that brought criticism over his lack of communication.

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About Ashton Snyder

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