Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has prostate cancer

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized on Jan. 1 for complications following surgery nearly two weeks earlier to treat prostate cancer, doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center revealed Tuesday.

The disclosure of Austin’s diagnosis and cause of his hospitalization came amid controversy over the Pentagon’s failure for days to inform the White House or the public that the Defense secretary had been admitted to Walter Reed, where he ended up in the intensive care unit.

Pentagon officials also failed for two days last week to notify Austin’s second-in-command that he had transferred authority to her while he was in the ICU, and while she was in Puerto Rico.

President Joe Biden only learned Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis on Tuesday morning, three days after speaking with Austin on the phone, the White House said.

Hours later Tuesday, the Walter Reed doctors issued their public statement, which is just the latest in a series of surprising disclosures about the Defense chief’s health since Friday.

Austin is sixth in the line of presidential succession and is an essential player in the United States national security apparatus. His previously secret hospitalization came as the U.S. was weighing and executing several major national security measures, including military strikes in the Middle East.

Members of Congress were stunned last Friday to learn from a public Pentagon statement that Austin had both had elective surgery, and later hospitalized on Jan. 1 without them being informed at the time. Biden was informed of the hospitalization on Thursday.

Shortly before Austin’s diagnosis was publicly released Tuesday, Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed said, “This lack of disclosure must never happen again.”

“He is taking responsibility for the situation, but this was a serious incident and there needs to be transparency and accountability from the Department,” said Reed, D-Rhode Island.

The Republican-led House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday opened a formal inquiry into Austin’s secret hospitalizations, saying it had “grave concerns about the handling of your absence and hospitalization.”

“With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own Deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable,” committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Alabama.

The panel asked Austin for information about any medical sedation or anesthesia he received last week, any orders given to “inform or not inform any other person of your hospitalization or medical condition,” and a detailed account of his transfer of duties to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.

The statement Tuesday from Walter Reed came from Dr. John Maddox, trauma medical director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, director of the Center for Prostate Disease Research of the Murtha Cancer Center.

The statement said that Austin, as part of his “routinely recommended health screen, “has undergone prostate specific antigen…

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