Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin — who was hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 22, 2023, and released Jan. 9, 2024 — was taken back to the same hospital on Sunday, the Pentagon said.
In a statement, the Pentagon said Austin was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center around 2:20 p.m. He “is retaining the functions and duties of his office,” according to Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, but added that the deputy defense secretary has been notified and is prepared to assume Austin’s duties “if required.”
As a result of Austin’s December hospitalization, the White House told Cabinet members and secretaries to notify the chief of staff if they cannot report their duties.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was also notified, as well as the White House and some members of Congress.
Ryder said Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems needed to perform his job.
Austin was scheduled to depart Tuesday for Brussels to hold a meeting of the Ukraine contact group, which he established in 2022 to coordinate military support for Kyiv after Russia’s invasion. After that, Austin was scheduled to attend a regular meeting of NATO defense ministers. It was not immediately clear if his hospitalization would change those plans.
–With reporting from the Associated Press.