May 26, 2024

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin undergoes procedure, briefly transfers authority

After multiple health issues in recent months, a top-ranking Cabinet official has found himself in the hospital once more, necessitating a transfer of duties.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was reported to have undergone a “scheduled, elective, and minimally invasive” procedure on Friday evening related to bladder concerns experienced earlier in the year, as Fox News reports.

Powers transferred

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder issued a statement late on Friday regarding the situation, assuring the nation of continuity at the top of the agency Austin leads.

“During that period, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks assumed the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense and served as the Acting Secretary of Defense,” Ryder wrote.

The statement went on, “Secretary Austin subsequently resumed his functions and duties as the Secretary of Defense at 8:25 p.m. ET and has returned home.”

It was believed that the procedure was not related to Austin's prior prostate cancer diagnosis.

The Defense Department added that the White House as well as Congress were notified of the plans for Austin's procedure and also that he would be briefly unable to perform his appointed duties on Friday.

Preventing a repeat of the past

It was back in December that Austin received a diagnosis of prostate cancer and was hospitalized for surgery, as NBC News noted at the time.

However, controversy erupted when it was learned that there was a substantial delay in Austin providing that information to his own staff or the White House, and the public was not made aware of the situation until even later.

As a result, Austin and the administration more broadly received heated criticism over what appeared to many to be an alarming lack of transparency, with many urging the secretary to resign altogether.

Ultimately, the White House promulgated new guidelines for how authority is delegated by Cabinet heads when circumstances prevent them from performing their official duties.

Austin himself expressed public contrition for what occurred, saying in February, “I want to be crystal clear: We did not handle this right. And I did not handle this right. I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility,” and it seems clear he was determined not to make the same mistake this time around.

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