Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released from hospital after prostate cancer surgery complications

ByShannon K. Crawford ABCNews logo
Monday, January 15, 2024
Defense secretary's surgery raises issue of prostate cancer silence
Defense Secretary Austin's secret surgery raises issue of prostate cancer silence among Black men

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was released from the hospital Monday following a two-week stay for treatment of an infection after earlier prostate cancer surgery.

The delay in informing officials of his hospitalization caused controversy and a push for investigation from some lawmakers.

"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," the Department of Defense said in a statement. "He has full access to required secure communications capabilities."

Austin underwent elective surgery to treat prostate cancer on Dec. 22. Complications from the procedure sent him back to the hospital on Jan. 1.

The Pentagon said Monday that Austin's cancer was "treated early and effectively, and his prognosis is excellent." He has no planned further treatment other than regular surveillance, according to the department.

Austin, in his own statement, said he will continue to "recuperate and perform my duties from home" and looked forward to returning to the Pentagon as quickly as possible.

"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," he said. "I also am thankful and appreciative for all the well wishes I received for a speedy recovery."

Austin and the Pentagon have been under fire for the handling of his hospitalization, which was kept secret from the White House and other officials for three days.

President Joe Biden, commenting on the controversy for the first time last Friday, said Austin showed a lapse in judgement for not not informing him earlier that he was hospitalized.

When asked by a reporter if he still had confidence in Austin, Biden replied he did.

Austin remained hospitalized as tensions escalated in the Red Sea with Iran-backed Houthi militants continuing their attacks on ships in the crucial waterway.

The U.S. on Jan. 11 led a coalition of partners, including the United Kingdom, in launching retaliatory strikes against the Houthis after the group failed to heed international warnings.

The White House and Pentagon detailed Austin's involvement in the military action, saying he gave the order to Central Command to initiate those strikes and monitored them in real time.

The Houthis vowed to retaliate, and on Sunday fired a missile toward an American warship that was shot down by a U.S. fighter aircraft, U.S. military officials said.

On Monday, the militants struck a U.S.-owned and operated commercial container ship, according to U.S. Central Command. The ship didn't report any injuries or significant damage.