Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, Sunday with symptoms of an “emergent bladder issue,” his spokesperson said in a statement.
Austin’s security detail transported him to the hospital Sunday afternoon, according to the statement. This is Austin’s second hospitalization for urinary tract issues this year.
“At approximately 4:55 pm today, Secretary Austin transferred the functions and duties of the office of the Secretary of Defense to Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said in the statement, more than two hours after he first left for Walter Reed. “The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defense, if required.”
The White House, Congress and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have also been notified of Austin’s condition, Ryder said.
Austin has been recovering from a severe urinary tract infection that developed following a procedure to treat prostate cancer late last year. He traveled by ambulance to Walter Reed on Jan. 1 and spent two weeks being treated.
His, and his team’s, failure to notify the president, Congress or the public about that initial hospitalization created an uproar early in the year that prompted a Pentagon review of notification procedures when the defense secretary is incapacitated.
The review, which will recommend a new notification policy, was completed on Thursday, Ryder told reporters during a briefing.
Austin traveled to Walter Reed on Sunday with equipment that will allow him to maintain both classified and unclassified communications, Ryder said.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.