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U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin released from hospital

UPI
U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was released from the hospital Monday after a two-week stay following complications from prostate cancer surgery and criticism over his failure to inform the White House of his condition. Austin says he is "eager to fully recover and return as quickly as possible to the Pentagon." File photo by Bonnie Cash/UPI

Jan. 15 (UPI) -- U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin was released from the hospital Monday after a two-week stay, following complications from prostate cancer surgery and criticism over his failure to inform the White House of his condition, saying he is "eager to fully recover."

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

In a separate statement, Austin, 70, said he was "grateful for the excellent care" he received at Walter Reed National Medical Center.

"I want to thank the outstanding doctors and nursing staff for their professionalism and superb support. I also am thankful and appreciative for all the well wishes I received for a speedy recovery," Austin wrote Monday. "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."

Austin, who underwent surgery for prostate cancer on Dec. 22, was admitted to Walter Reed's intensive care unit on Jan. 1 after experiencing intestinal complications. The defense secretary remained hospitalized for at least three days before the Biden administration was notified, prompting a backlash and calls for Austin's resignation.

Last week, President Joe Biden vowed his continued support for the defense secretary.

"The president respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency. He also respects the amazing job he's done as defense secretary and how he's handled multiple crises over the last almost three years now. And very much values his advice, candor, leadership and, again, looks forward to having him back at the Pentagon," said National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby.

As the White House and the Defense Department continue to review Cabinet protocols, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has launched a formal inquiry into Austin's medical absence and the "unacceptable" failure to inform the White House of his condition.

"With wars in Ukraine and Israel, the idea that the White House and even your own deputy did not understand the nature of your condition is patently unacceptable," Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Ala., wrote last week in a letter to the defense secretary, demanding answers and documents detailing his absence from the Pentagon.

"Everything from ongoing counterterrorism operations to nuclear command and control relies on a clear understanding of the secretary's decision-making capacity," Rogers added.

While Austin returned home Monday after leaving Walter Reed, he will continue to receive physical therapy. There are no plans for further cancer treatments as doctors say "his prostate cancer was detected early, and his prognosis is excellent."

"Secretary Austin progressed well throughout his stay and his strength is rebounding. He underwent a series of medical tests and evaluations and received non-surgical care during his stay to address his medical needs, to include resolving some lingering leg pains," the Defense Department said Monday.

"He was discharged home with planned physical therapy and regular follow up. The secretary is expected to make a full recovery."