President Joe Biden was only informed about US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s cancer treatment on Tuesday, according to the White House. Austin, 70, faced criticism for delaying the disclosure of his hospitalization and complications after surgery, prompting concerns about national security and transparency within the Biden administration.
Admitted to the hospital on January 1, 70-year-old Mr. Austin was subsequently placed in the intensive care unit due to complications from surgery in December.
Criticism ensued as he failed to inform senior officials promptly, leading to an apology for not ensuring public awareness.
The delay in notifying the White House raised concerns about national security and transparency within the Biden administration. As a key member of the president’s Cabinet, the defense secretary holds a crucial position just below the president in the military chain of command.
The Pentagon confirmed Mr. Austin’s ongoing hospitalization on Tuesday.
During a press briefing on Tuesday, John Kirby, a spokesman for the National Security Council, revealed that President Biden had just been informed that day about Defense Secretary Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis.
As of this morning, no one at the White House was informed about Secretary Austin’s prostate cancer diagnosis, he declared.
While emphasizing the president’s initial concern for the secretary’s health, Kirby admitted that the communication surrounding the situation was “suboptimal.”
“This is not the ideal way for things to unfold,” Kirby remarked.
Notably, there has been no communication between Mr. Biden and Secretary Austin since their last interaction over the weekend, according to Kirby.
Despite being entrusted with some of Mr. Austin’s responsibilities, his deputy, Kathleen Hicks, remained uninformed of his hospitalization. In December 2023, doctors diagnosed prostate cancer during a routine checkup, leading to a minimally invasive surgical procedure at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on December 22. Following the surgery, Mr. Austin faced complications and returned to the hospital on January 1, 2024.
Subsequent evaluations revealed a urinary tract infection, prompting his transfer to the intensive care unit for further treatment, including addressing abdominal fluid collections affecting his small intestines.
Doctors clarified that Mr. Austin did not lose consciousness or undergo general anesthesia during this hospital stay. While his infection has cleared, his recovery is ongoing, with a positive prognosis for a full recovery despite the potential for a gradual process.
A spokesperson for Mr. Austin did not specify a discharge timeline but indicated that the Secretary continues to recover well and maintains good spirits.
During a Tuesday briefing, Pentagon Press Secretary Air Force Maj Gen Pat Ryder did not offer a clear explanation for the delayed disclosure of Mr. Austin’s condition. Although he acknowledged the deeply personal nature of a prostate cancer diagnosis, Ryder mentioned an ongoing review of notification procedures to ensure improvement in the future.
White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients directed members of the president’s Cabinet on Tuesday to provide timely notice if they are unable to fulfill their duties, emphasizing transparency in such matters