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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin cancels overseas trip to Brussels following hospitalization

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U.S. defense officials said on Monday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has canceled a trip to Brussels this week following his hospitalization on Sunday due to “an emergent bladder issue”. News of Austin’s hospitalization had raised questions as to whether Austin would be healthy enough to continue with that planned travel. U.S. defense officials said to multiple media outlets: “The secretary will no longer travel to Brussels and Wednesday’s Ukraine Defense Contact Group will now be held virtually.”

The Pentagon had announced last week that Austin would be traveling to Brussels to attend a monthly meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, the more than 50 countries providing military aid to Ukraine, and a separate meeting of NATO defense ministers. Austin’s latest hospitalization on Sunday was made public shortly after his security detail took him to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center seeking care for the new issue that appeared tied to his secret hospitalization in early January for complications resulting from a surgical procedure to treat his prostate cancer.

Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said in a recent statement: “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. The Deputy Secretary of Defense has assumed the functions and duties. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House, and Congress have been notified.”

Late Sunday night, Dr. John Maddox and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, Austin’s doctors at Walter Reed, said he had been admitted to the critical care unit.  Their statement read: “Earlier today, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue. Tonight, after a series of tests and evaluations, the Secretary was admitted into the critical care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for supportive care and close monitoring. At this time, it is not clear how long Secretary Austin will remain hospitalized. The current bladder issue is not expected to change his anticipated full recovery. His cancer prognosis remains excellent. Updates on the Secretary’s condition will be provided as soon as possible.”

Austin recently faced scrutiny and criticism after undergoing a surgical procedure for prostate cancer on Dec. 22, which led to a urinary tract infection and serious intestinal complications which led to his hospitalization on Jan. 1. However, the White House didn’t learn of Austin’s diagnosis or hospitalization  or three days, to which Austin recently apologized for: “I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis, and should also have told my team and the American public. I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.”  Austin has said he directly apologized to Biden and told him he was “deeply sorry” for not letting him know of his diagnosis immediately.

Editorial credit: photowalking / Shutterstock.com

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