Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Virginia since January 1 for treatment following what Pentagon Press Secretary Pat Ryder said were complications from a minor elective medical procedure. The 70-year-old had that procedure done on December 22, according to the Pentagon, but began experiencing severe pain last week and was eventually admitted to Walter Reed’s intensive care unit, where he then remained for four days.
On Tuesday, January 9, Austin’s doctors at Walter Reed finally issued a statement, revealing that the Defense Secretary had been diagnosed with prostate cancer and underwent a successful surgery on December 22 to treat the cancer. Days after he returned home, Austin presented with symptoms of nausea and severe pain and it was later determined that he had an infection, prompting his admission to Walter Reed for additional treatment and evaluation. His doctors say Austin was never under general anesthesia during this time and was always conscious. Austin is expected to make a full recovery. However, it’s still not clear when he will be discharged.
What is clear is that senior leaders at the Pentagon and White House — including President Biden, National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks — didn’t know about Austin’s hospitalization until days later. Multiple reports indicate that they weren’t informed about Austin’s condition and hospitalization until Thursday, January 4.
One reason for the delayed notification, according to the Pentagon, was that Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, was also ill and not able to tell senior officials about Austin’s illness until January 4.
The Pentagon reportedly did not notify the White House about Austin’s December 22 procedure either:
More notably, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said that Biden only learned of Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis Tuesday morning, despite the two reportedly speaking days earlier on Saturday.
“It is not optimal for a situation like this to go as long as it did without the commander in chief knowing about it or the national security advisor knowing about it or, frankly, other leaders at the Department of Defense,” Kirby said. “That’s not the way this is supposed to happen.”