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Austin released from hospital but won’t return to Pentagon right away

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, speaking from home after his latest hospitalization, opened a meeting of US allies with a never-surrender message aimed at reassuring Ukraine almost two years after Russia’s invasion.  (Matt McClain/The Washington Post)
By Dan Lamothe Washington Post

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday, the Pentagon said, ending a two-week hospitalization that he kept secret at first after developing serious complications from a surgery to treat prostate cancer.

Austin, 70, said in a statement that he was grateful for the care he received, and thanked the medical personnel who cared for him and all who sent him well wishes.

“Now, as I continue to recuperate and perform my duties from home, I’m eager to fully recover and return as quickly as possible to the Pentagon,” he added.

It was not immediately clear how long that may be.

Austin’s doctors, John Maddox and Gregory Chesnut, said in a statement that the defense chief continues to recover well and, following medical advice, “will recuperate and perform his duties remotely for a period of time.” They noted that he has “full access to required secure communications capabilities” at home, where he will undergo physical therapy and “regular follow up.”

The situation has garnered significant interest not only because of Austin’s position of authority, but because of the intensely private way he handled it. He initially underwent surgery to treat prostate cancer on Dec. 22 without informing President Biden and other senior officials in the administration.

On Jan. 1, Austin was transported to Walter Reed by ambulance from his home in Northern Virginia in “intense pain,” and placed in intensive care, the Pentagon said later, but the Defense Department failed to disclose the medical crisis for days. A handful of officials close to Austin learned about his hospitalization Jan. 2, but the information was withheld from the White House until Jan. 4 and from Congress and the public until Jan. 5.

The Defense Department inspector general has opened an investigation into the matter. House Republicans have said they, too, will conduct an inquiry.

White House officials, meanwhile, have directed a review of how senior government officials delegate authority to others when needed.