Maj Gen Speaker Patrick  S. Ryder

U.S. Department of Defense Press Statement on Health Status of U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin

delivered 9 January 2024, Pentagon Briefing Room,  Arlington County, Virginia

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Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks very much for your patience. I do have quite a few things to pass along today at the top, so appreciate your patience.

Secretary Austin currently remains hospitalized at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and is in good condition. By now, you should have seen the statement released by Walter Reed National Military Medical Center officials regarding his medical care. And for the sake of ensuring that everyone here today and everyone watching has the same information, I will read that full statement.

This is a statement from Dr. John Maddox, trauma medical director, and Dr. Gregory Chesnut, Center for Prostate Disease Research of the Murtha Center, director at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Beginning the statement:

As part of Secretary Austin's routinely recommended health screening, he has undergone regular prostate-specific antigen (PSA) surveillance. Changes in his laboratory evaluation in early December of 2023 identified prostate cancer, which required treatment.

On December 22nd, 2023, after consultation with his medical team, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and underwent a minimally-invasive surgical procedure called a prostatectomy to treat and cure prostate cancer. He was under general anesthesia during this procedure. Secretary Austin recovered uneventfully from his surgery and returned home the next morning. His prostate cancer was detected early and his prognosis is excellent.

On January 1st, 2024, Secretary Austin was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center with complications from the December 22nd procedure, including nausea with severe abdominal hip and leg pain. Initial evaluation revealed a urinary tract infection.

On January 2, the decision was made to transfer him to the ICU for close monitoring and a higher level of care. Further evaluation revealed abdominal fluid collections, impairing the function of his small intestines. This resulted in the backup of his intestinal contents, which was treated by placing a tube through his nose to drain his stomach. The abdominal fluid collections were drained by nonsurgical drain placement. He's progressed steadily throughout his stay. His infection is cleared. He continues to make progress, and we anticipate a full recovery, although this can be a slow process. During the stay, Secretary Austin never lost consciousness and never underwent general anesthesia.

Prostate cancer is the most common cause of cancer among American men, and it impacts one in every eight men and one in every six African-American men during their lifetime. Despite the frequency of prostate cancer, discussions about screening, treatment and support are often deeply personal and private ones. Early screening is important for detection and treatment of prostate cancer, and people should talk to their doctors to see what screening is appropriate for them.

End statement.

Secretary Austin continues to recover well and remains in good spirits. He's in contact with his senior staff and has full access to required secure communications capabilities and continues to monitor DOD's day- to-day operations worldwide. At this time, I do not have any information to provide in terms of when he might be released from the hospital but we'll be sure to keep you updated, and until then, we will continue to release daily status updates on his condition. We in the Department of Defense, of course, wish him a speedy recovery.

The department recognizes the understandable concerns expressed by the public, Congress and the news media in terms of notification timelines and DOD transparency. Now, I want to underscore again that Secretary Austin has taken responsibility for the issues with transparency, and the department is taking immediate steps to improve our notification procedures.

Yesterday, the secretary's chief of staff directed the DOD's director of administration and management to conduct a 30-day review of the department's notification process for assumption of functions and duties of the secretary of defense. While the review is underway and effective immediately, the chief of staff also directed several actions to ensure increased situational awareness about any transfer of authorities from the secretary of defense, to include ensuring that the DOD general counsel, the chairman and vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the combatant commanders, the service secretaries, the service chief of staffs, the White House Situation Room and senior staff of the secretary and deputy secretary of defense are all notified, and that the notification for transfer of authorities includes an explanation of the reason. We'll keep you updated regarding the results of the review and any additional significant changes to process and procedures as appropriate.

And as I highlighted to many of you yesterday, nothing is more important to the Secretary of Defense and the Department of Defense than the trust and confidence of the American people and the public we serve, and we'll continue to work every day -- work hard every day to earn and deserve that trust.

Separately, Deputy Secretary Kathleen Hicks is traveling today en route to U.S. Space Command Headquarters at Peterson Space Force Base in Colorado. Tomorrow, she'll preside over the U.S. Space Command change of command at 12 pm Eastern Time between General James Dickinson and Lieutenant General Stephen Whiting. The event will be livestreamed on DVIDS and on

Also, Dr. Michael Chase, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for China, Taiwan, and Mongolia, began talks yesterday with People's Republic of China Major General Song Yanchao, Deputy Director of the Central Military Commission Office for International Military Cooperation, at the Pentagon for the 17th U.S.-PRC Defense Policy Coordination Talks. Those meetings conclude today and we'll issue a readout later this afternoon.

Finally, as some of you may be aware, the United States of America Vietnam War Commemoration was launched in 2012, authorized by Congress under the Secretary of Defense, in support of a national 50th anniversary commemoration to help thank the nation's Vietnam veterans and their families for their service and sacrifice on behalf of our nation.

Notably, thousands of organizations known as commemorative partners have joined the U.S. Vietnam War Commemoration to honor America's seven million Vietnam veterans, both at home and abroad, and the 10 million families of all those who served.

This Saturday, January 13th, at 4 pm Eastern, a special commemoration of the service, courage, and legacy of Vietnam War veterans and Gold Star families and a renewal of American commitment to account for those heroes who may remain missing 50 years after the war's end will be observed at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., hosted by a commemorative partner, the Air and Space Forces Association, and 40 supporting organizations. The event is open to the public and will also be livestreamed. For more details, I'd refer you to the Air and Space Forces Association or National Cathedral websites.

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