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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin hospitalized after procedure complications

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a briefing at the Pentagon in Washington, Nov. 16, 2022. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File)

WASHINGTON (WISH) – A release from the Pentagon said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on New Year’s Day after complications from an “elective” medical procedure, CNN reported Friday night.

The announcement came four days after Austin was initially admitted. CNN reported Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, made no mention of the hospitalization at a news briefing Thursday.

CNN reported the short statement did not detail what the procedure was or what complications followed the procedure, but it did say Austin is “recovering well.”

Austin remains in the hospital as of Friday afternoon.

Asked why the Pentagon waited four days to notify the public about Austin’s hospitalization, Ryder said, “This has been an evolving situation in which we had to consider a number of other factors” including medical issues and personal privacy issues, according to CNN.

According to CNN, the Pentagon declined to say whether Austin was unconscious at any time during his hospitalization or whether he was ever in critical condition.

CNN reporting showed that Austin is one of the most critical members of the Biden administration’s Cabinet. Austin is also the civilian leader of the military, which CNN reported, “made (Austin’s role) one of the most important in the national security establishment – particularly as the US military faces increased tensions in the Middle East.”

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was “prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required,” according to the Pentagon statement.

The news Friday came as the US faced “overseas national security issues, including attacks on US troops in the Middle East, US naval vessels intercepting Houthi launches from Yemen, and the wars in Ukraine and Gaza,” CNN said.

The failure to publicly announce Austin’s hospitalization breaks with past precedent, according to CNN. When President Joe Biden was hospitalized for a routine colonoscopy in 2021, the White House announced ahead of time he would briefly transfer power to Vice President Kamala Harris.