- By Holly Honderich
- in Washington
US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is back in the hospital with an “emerging bladder problem”, the Pentagon announced.
In a statement released on Sunday, the White House was informed.
At around 4:55 p.m. local time (9:55 p.m. GMT), Mr. Austin “transferred the functions and duties of the office” to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks.
It comes less than a month after Mr Austin’s secret hospital stay in December sparked controversy, for which he apologized last week.
The brief Pentagon statement released Sunday said Mr. Austin, 70, had previously been “transported by security to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be examined for symptoms suggestive of an emerging bladder problem. He is still in the hospital and receiving treatment.”
The hospital is located in Bethesda, just northwest of the capital, Washington.
Late last year, Mr Austin underwent surgery for prostate cancer.
He was readmitted to the hospital on New Year’s Day with severe pain in his leg, hip and abdomen due to complications from the procedure. An evaluation revealed a urinary tract infection and he remained in the hospital for more than two weeks.
Top defense officials and the Biden administration did not know that Mr. Austin was seriously ill until three days after his readmission in January.
The incident raised concerns about transparency and safety and prompted three separate investigations into Mr Austin’s handling of his illness and hospital stays.
He was called to testify before a congressional committee about his failure to brief President Biden and other top officials this week, February 14.
For this most recent hospitalization, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Congress have also been notified.
The Secretary of Defense sits just below the President in the U.S. military’s chain of command and is considered one of the most important members of the cabinet.