US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Hospitalized Again, Transfers Duties

(MENAFN- Khaama Press) U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was admitted to a hospital in Washington on Sunday for treatment related to symptoms indicating a serious bladder issue, as reported by Reuters citing a spokesperson from the Pentagon.

Later, Major General Pat Ryder, the Pentagon Press Secretary, stated that Austin, aged 70, had delegated his responsibilities to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.

Both Republican and Democratic legislators criticized Austin last month for not disclosing a cancer diagnosis and subsequent hospital stays in December and January, including to President Joe Biden. Some prominent Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, called for Austin's removal from his position.

This incident proved embarrassing for Biden, prompting Austin to issue an apology during a televised news briefing. He is expected to testify before Congress on February 29 regarding the matter, according to the report.

Despite acknowledging a lapse in judgment, President Biden, a Democrat, expressed confidence in Austin.

The Pentagon's prompt announcement of the secretary's hospitalization and the swift decision to transfer his duties to a deputy indicate an effort to avoid a recurrence of last month's political turmoil.

Austin, a retired four-star general who commanded troops in Iraq and became the first Black defense secretary in America's history, remained hospitalized last month when U.S. forces carried out a retaliatory strike against an Iranian-backed militia leader in Baghdad.

Three investigations are underway regarding Austin's behavior, one conducted by the Pentagon's Inspector General's office, tasked with overseeing military misconduct. Mike Rogers, the Republican chair of the House Armed Services Committee, has called for Austin to testify. Despite being hospitalized, Austin is still slated to attend a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Brussels on Wednesday, as reported by Reuters.

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