Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin canceled a trip to Brussels this week, where he was due to attend meetings on the defense of Ukraine and NATO, after he was hospitalized in an emergency over the weekend.
The change in plans comes during a week when Congress tries to pass a Ukraine aid bill and days after former President Donald Trump made controversial comments about potentially abandoning NATO allies if he secures a second term.
Austin was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Sunday afternoon due to “urgent bladder problems.” The defense minister has been battling prostate cancer and has been recovering from surgery for the past few months.
Doctors said late Sunday night that after tests and evaluations, Austin was admitted to the intensive care unit.
Austin initially intended to retain all of his functions and responsibilities. The Pentagon said Sunday afternoon that it had brought “unclassified and classified communications systems necessary for the performance of its duties” to the hospital.
Austin later turned over his duties to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Sunday night.
The Pentagon said it would continue to provide regular updates on Austin’s condition, trying not to repeat a recent mistake when the Defense Department failed to notify the White House when Austin was initially hospitalized for cancer surgery and subsequent complications.
In January, Austin and his staff faced major backlash for failing to tell top government officials that the defense secretary had been admitted to intensive care for previously unknown reasons. Doctors later revealed Austin’s cancer diagnosis and details of his hospital visits.
Austin and the Pentagon apologized for the lack of communication. This time, the Pentagon followed notification protocol to a tee, a White House official told NBC News on Monday.
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