US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been discharged from the hospital after he had a secret surgery to treat prostate cancer and developed subsequent complications, according to the Department of Defense.
“Following consultation with medical staff, Secretary Austin was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center today,” Department of Defense officials said in a statement. “The Secretary continues to recover well and, on the advice of doctors, will recuperate and perform his duties remotely for a period of time before returning full-time to the Pentagon. He has full access to required secure communications capabilities.”
On 22 December, Mr Austin underwent a procedure to treat his prostate cancer. On 1 January, Mr Austin was re-admitted to the hospital after suffering complications from the surgery. His healthcare team later transferred him to intensive care on 2 January.
In a statement, Mr Austin said he will continue to work from home and he’s “eager to fully recover and return as quickly as possible to the Pentagon.”
“I’m grateful for the excellent care I received at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and want to thank the outstanding doctors and nursing staff for their professionalism and superb support,” Mr Austin said. “I also am thankful and appreciative for all the well wishes I received for a speedy recovery.”
Mr Austin’s treatment made headlines after it was revealed neither President Joe Biden nor Mr Austin’s deputy secretary Kathleen Hicks knew about the surgery or subsequent intensive care admission until 4 January. Mr Austin also kept his cancer diagnosis a secret from Mr Biden and senior officials until 9 January.
Ms Hicks took on some of Mr Austin’s duties after he transferred decision-making power to her during the initial surgery and a portion of his hospital stay to treat the complications, according to the Associated Press.
However, Mr Austin did orchestrate and then monitor the nation’s retaliatory attack on Yemen-based Houthi militants on Thursday from the hospital, Pentagon officials revealed last week.
Officials from the White House and Pentagon said they’re reviewing Mr Austin’s lack of disclosure and future procedures for notifying senior officials in the event of an absence that could require the transfer of decision-making capabilities. Mr Biden called Mr Austin’s failure to disclose a lapse in judgment, but said he still had confidence in the top defence official.
In response to a question from The Independent’s White House Correspondent Andrew Feinberg, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said the Council will not “track the GPS coordinates” on cabinet members’ phones in the wake of this incident.
“We’re not going to plant a microchip in their neck like they’re a poodle,” Mr Kirby said.