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Defense Secretary Austin resumes duties, was in intensive care unit for days as public kept in the dark

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was in an intensive care unit for days but is now recovering and resumed full duties last night, according to new reports. 

Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday following complications with an elective medical procedure, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder revealed in a statement Friday. 

The news was kept from the press for days due to “medical and personal privacy issues,” Ryder said, amid heightened tensions in the Middle East this week when a U.S. strike killed four members of an Iran-aligned Iraqi militia group in Baghdad and two suicide bombs in Iran left at least 103 people dead as Israel’s bombardment of Gaza continues.

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According to Politico Pentagon reporter Lara Seligman, Austin remained in hospital Saturday and resumed full duties last night. 

“I don’t have any updates to provide at this time in terms of when he’ll be discharged, but we will be sure to keep you and others updated,” Seligman wrote on X, quoting Ryder.

Fox News Digital reached out to the Pentagon for comment but has not received a response. 

Two administration officials also told NBC News that Austin, the nation’s first African American defense secretary, spent four days in an intensive care unit.

He was also not able to perform his duties from New Year’s Day until yesterday and Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, who was on leave, had picked up his duties, a senior defense official told the news outlet. 

It is still unclear why Austin was hospitalized in the first place, or what the elective procedure was or when it occurred.

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As to why the Pentagon did not notify the public about the situation until last night, Seligman quoted Ryder as saying: “It was an evolving situation, in which we had to consider a number of factors, including medical and personal privacy issues.”

The Pentagon Press Association (PPA), an organization that serves as the voice of journalists covering the Pentagon, sent a letter from its board of directors to Secretary Austin’s personnel on Friday evening.

The letter, which was addressed to Ryder and Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Chris Meagher, shared the organizations’ “significant concern” about the Defense Department’s delayed disclosure of Austin’s hospitalization. 

“We are writing to express our significant concerns about the Defense Department’s failure to notify the public and the media about Secretary Lloyd Austin’s current hospitalization,” the letter said. “The fact that he has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for four days and the Pentagon is only now alerting the public late on a Friday evening is an outrage.”

The organization wrote that the Defense Department’s disclosure “falls far below the normal disclosure standards” of when senior administration officials undergo surgery. 

The board argued that the American public deserves to know when their leaders are incapacitated.

Fox News’ Sarah Rumpf-Whitten and Liz Friden contributed to this report.

 

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