Washington, DC: US Defence Secretary Llyod Austin was taken to a hospital on Sunday afternoon after "symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue," Pentagon Press Secretary Major General Pat Ryder said in an official statement.
According to the official statement, the top defence official was taken to the hospital by his security to Walter Reed National Military Medical Centre at 2.20 pm (local time).
"Today, at approximately 2:20 pm, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III was transported by his security detail to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center to be seen for symptoms suggesting an emergent bladder issue," the statement read.
The Pentagon said the Deputy Secretary of Defence and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were notified. Additionally, White House and Congressional notifications in the matter were issued.
"At this time, the Secretary is retaining the functions and duties of his office. The Deputy Secretary is prepared to assume the functions and duties of the Secretary of Defence, if required. Secretary Austin traveled to the hospital with the unclassified and classified communications systems necessary to perform his duties," the statement added.
The Defence Secretary previously underwent a minimally invasive surgical procedure for prostate cancer on December 22, which led to a urinary tract infection and serious intestinal complications. He was hospitalised again on January 1 but the White House didn't learn of it for three days--a secrecy that sparked intense scrutiny and criticism.
"I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis, and should also have told my team and the American public," Austin told reporters earlier this month, adding, "I take full responsibility. I apologise to my teammates and to the American people."
Austin also spoke in personal terms about his health challenges.
"The news shook me, as I know that it shakes so many others, especially in the black community. It was a gut punch," he said, adding, "And frankly, my first instinct was to keep it private. I don't think it's news that I'm a pretty private guy. I never like burdening others with my problems. It's just not my way."
President Joe Biden, too, publicly faulted Austin for not informing him earlier of his hospitalisation after his cancer procedure.
He told reporters in January that he still had confidence in Austin but called out his 'lapse in judgement'.
Austin said he directly apologised to Biden and told him he was "deeply sorry" for not letting him know of his diagnosis immediately.