Austin Back to Work at Pentagon After Brief Medical Procedure for Bladder Issues

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III at Arlington National Cemetery
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III waits to greet President Joseph Biden upon Biden's arrival to Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Va., May 27, 2024. (U.S. Army photo by Elizabeth Fraser / Arlington National Cemetery / released)

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin underwent a short medical procedure Friday to help address a bladder issue, according to the Pentagon.

Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder announced in an emailed statement that Austin "underwent a successful, elective, and minimally invasive follow-up nonsurgical procedure related to his bladder issue at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which lasted approximately 2.5 hours."

The disclosure comes just months after it was discovered that Austin quietly underwent treatment for prostate cancer without notifying either the White House, lawmakers or the public, causing an uproar from Congress and calls for his resignation.

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In the statements that the Pentagon released Friday, Ryder noted that, while Austin was undergoing the procedure, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks served as the acting defense secretary. After the procedure, Ryder said Austin "resumed his functions and duties as the secretary of defense at 8:25 p.m. ET and has returned home."

Ryder said that Austin's bladder issue was not related to his recent cancer diagnosis. However, the disclosures about his treatment are a direct result of Austin's failure earlier this year to be transparent about treatment for cancer with Congress and the president.

    Austin was first diagnosed with prostate cancer in December and underwent a prostatectomy on Dec. 22 to treat it. However, he developed complications, and on Jan. 1 he was taken in extreme pain by ambulance to Walter Reed, where he was admitted to the intensive care unit.

    The Pentagon finally made the news public several days later.

    At the time, Ryder blamed a series of issues -- including Austin's chief of staff coming down with the flu and his own failure to follow up -- for the public and key government officials being unaware the defense secretary not only had cancer but was sidelined at Walter Reed.

    Austin stayed at Walter Reed until Jan. 15 and then recovered at home, finally returning to the Pentagon on Jan. 29.

    A subsequent review ordered by Austin's chief of staff into the Pentagon's own handling of the situation did not find "any indication of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate," according to a three-page unclassified summary released in late February. Instead, the review found that the secretary's staff "were hesitant to pry or share any information that they did learn" about Austin's health because of concerns about his privacy.

    Republicans on Capitol Hill ripped into Austin at his first public hearing before them on Feb. 29, and called his behavior "totally unacceptable," an "embarrassment" and "an extreme lack of leadership."

    "Our adversaries should fear us," said Rep. Jim Banks, R-Ind. "And what you've done is embarrass us."

    Banks then went on to argue that Austin's initial three-day absence, which occurred without the president knowing, suggested "the president is that aloof or you are irrelevant."

    Austin was seen publicly on Monday when he spoke during the Memorial Day observance in Arlington National Cemetery's Memorial Amphitheater with President Joe Biden and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr.

    Related: 'What You've Done Is Embarrass Us': Republicans Rip into Austin at First Hearing Since Hospitalization

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