Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized since Monday due to complications following a minor elective medical procedure.

The Pentagon kept a lid on Austin’s admission to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center until Friday.

Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said it’s unclear when Austin would be released from the hospital.

However, Ryder said he’s “recovering well.”

The Defense Department did not disclose the reason for Austin’s treatment or why it kept his hospital stay a secret.

WATCH:

The Associated Press reports:

The Pentagon’s failure to disclose Austin’s hospitalization is counter to normal practice with the president and other senior U.S. officials and Cabinet members. The Pentagon Press Association, which represents media members who cover the Defense Department, sent a letter of protest to Ryder and Chris Meagher, the assistant defense secretary for public affairs.

“The fact that he has been at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for four days and the Pentagon is only now alerting the public late on a Friday evening is an outrage,” the PPA said in its letter. “At a time when there are growing threats to U.S. military service members in the Middle East and the U.S. is playing key national security roles in the wars in Israel and Ukraine, it is particularly critical for the American public to be informed about the health status and decision-making ability of its top defense leader.”

The White House has refused to say when or how it had been notified of Austin’s hospitalization, and it referred questions to the Pentagon.

Per CNN:

Asked why the Pentagon waited four days to notify the public about Austin’s hospitalization, Ryder said, “This has been an evolving situation in which we had to consider a number of other factors” including medical issues and personal privacy issues.

The Pentagon declined to say whether Austin was unconscious at any time during his hospitalization or whether he was ever in critical condition.

As defense secretary, Austin is one of the most critical members of the Biden administration’s Cabinet, and he is the civilian leader of the military, making his one of the most important roles in the national security establishment – particularly as the US military faces increased tensions in the Middle East.

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was “prepared to act for and exercise the powers of the Secretary, if required,” Ryder said in the statement.

Austin’s hospitalization – and the lack of acknowledgement – comes as the US faces a number of overseas national security issues, including attacks on US troops in the Middle East, US naval vessels intercepting Houthi launches from Yemen, and the wars in Ukraine and Gaza.

During Austin’s hospitalization, the US carried out a strike in Baghdad against the commander of a pro-Iran militia. Ryder said Austin gave authorization for the strike before he was hospitalized.

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