Austin to miss NATO meetings with new hospitalization for bladder ailment


Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will miss two major NATO meetings in Brussels this week after he was taken to the hospital on Sunday for what Pentagon officials said was an “emergent bladder issue” believed to be unrelated to his recent cancer scare.

Mr. Austin, 70, had been scheduled to travel to NATO headquarters to attend a regular meeting on Tuesday of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a group of about 50 countries coordinating military assistance for Kyiv, and to represent the U.S. in Thursday’s meeting of NATO defense ministers.

He will participate virtually in the Ukraine Defense Contract Group and Julianne Smith, the U.S. ambassador to NATO, will stand in for him during the NATO defense ministerial meeting, Pentagon officials said Monday.

On Monday, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was acting head of the Pentagon Mr. Austin formally transferred to her his duties when he was admitted to the hospital.

His doctors released a statement on Monday saying he underwent non-surgical procedures under general anesthesia to address his bladder issues. “We anticipate a successful recovery and will closely monitor him overnight,” the doctors said. “A prolonged hospital stay is not anticipated. We anticipate the secretary will be able to resume his normal duties” on Tuesday.

Mr. Austin‘s bladder issue is not expected to interfere with his ongoing recovery from a bout of prostate cancer that put him in the hospital in late December. Pentagon officials said he will remain in Walter Reed’s ICU ward in order to provide him “appropriate privacy.”

“He is expected to make a full recovery from his cancer diagnosis,” said Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Defense Department spokesman. “There is no further treatment associated with his cancer, other than the physical therapy that he’s been undergoing to deal with some lingering leg pains.”

The Defense Department notified the White House and Congressional leaders about Mr. Austin‘s latest hospital stay.

Mr. Austin had surgery late last year as part of his cancer treatment and was readmitted to Walter Reed on New Year’s Day with severe pain in his legs, hip and abdomen because of complications related to the procedure. He was hospitalized for several days when the procedure resulted in a bladder infection.

Maj. Gen. Ryder said he doesn’t believe Mr. Austin‘s most recent hospital stay was related to his earlier cancer treatment, despite both incidents involving bladder concerns.

The Defense Department’s thoroughness in notifying the White House and Congress of Mr. Austin’s health issues is in marked contrast to his decision in recent weeks to keep secret his earlier hospital stay — despite the fact that he’s the primary military adviser to the president.

His lack of candor prompted multiple investigations and calls from some GOP members in Congress that he should resign or be fired.

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