Powers of Deputy Kathleen Hicks

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Virginia “due to a bladder problem.” He transferred duties to his deputy, Kathleen Hicks. The Pentagon announced this, adding that it was not yet clear how long he would remain in the hospital. Doctors diagnosed the Minister of Defense with prostate cancer last December and he underwent surgery. On January 1, Austin was hospitalized again due to complications.

Who is Lloyd Austin?

Austin is Joe Biden's chief military advisor, and at the end of 2023, his first hospitalization made the news because it happened without President Biden's knowledge, leaving the Pentagon without its chief for three days. The detailed information released last night and this morning therefore appears in stark contrast to the communications used in December.

In that case, on December 22, 2023, Austin underwent surgery at Reed Hospital. He was discharged the next day but returned to hospital on January 1. It was only on January 4 that Hicks, Biden's national security adviser Jake Sullivan and then the president were informed of Austin's diagnosis, treatment or hospitalization.

First hospitalization and cold with Biden

This sparked a strong political reaction, including an investigation by the Department of Defense Inspector General. The Pentagon claimed that Austin's chief of staff was sick with the flu, which exacerbated the delay in reporting the secretary's medical condition. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Austin's involvement in national security matters was “no different than any other day, except that he was briefing the president on options and participating in discussions from the 'hospital.'” This came at a time of heightened global tension and U.S. military action against… Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Austin coordinated and monitored US retaliatory attacks against Houthi militias from his hospital room before his discharge on January 15.


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