U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is set to make his return to the Pentagon on Monday, nearly a month after quietly entering the hospital in December for complications arising from undisclosed prostate cancer surgery, according to two U.S. officials who informed Reuters on Friday.
The veil of secrecy surrounding Austin’s health condition and his hospitalization on January 1st took both the White House and Congress by surprise, with even President Joe Biden remaining unaware of Austin’s hospital stay for much of the first week of January.
Austin, who is 70 years old, has refrained from publicly discussing his health. While he had intended to briefly address it during a virtual meeting of Ukraine’s military allies on Tuesday, he ultimately skipped over that part of his prepared remarks.
The shroud of secrecy surrounding Austin’s situation has ignited a political firestorm, with Republicans accusing him of neglecting his duties.
Austin, a retired four-star general who previously commanded forces in Iraq, holds the distinction of being the first Black defense secretary in U.S. history.
Certain influential Republicans, including former President Donald Trump, have called for Austin’s removal from his position.
Nonetheless, President Biden expressed confidence in Austin, despite acknowledging that there was a lapse in judgment regarding the handling of his hospitalization.
Austin was initially admitted to the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland on December 22nd to undergo treatment for prostate cancer.
However, he returned to the hospital on January 1st due to complications, which included a urinary tract infection.
The revelation of his hospitalization didn’t emerge until four days later, and the Pentagon didn’t provide details about the reasons for his treatment until January 9th.
On a more positive note, physicians at Walter Reed announced on Friday that Austin’s recovery from prostate cancer treatment was progressing well, and they anticipated a full recovery.