US defense secretary to undergo non-surgical procedure, Pentagon says

FILE PHOTO: U.S. Defence Secretary Austin at the White House in Washington

By Jasper Ward

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will turn over his duties temporarily on Friday while he undergoes a non-surgical procedure related to his previously reported bladder issue, the Pentagon said.

Austin has determined he will be unable to perform his duties during the minimally invasive procedure and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks will assume them, the Pentagon said in a statement.

The Pentagon said the bladder issue was not related to the secretary's prostate cancer diagnosis and "has had no effect on his excellent cancer prognosis." The White House and Congress have been notified, it said.

In February, Austin was hospitalized to address the bladder issue. The hospitalization came after he underwent surgery to treat prostrate cancer in December.

The secretary triggered a political uproar after failing to disclose his surgery to the White House as well as a subsequent hospitalization in January to deal with its complications. Even President Joe Biden did not know Austin was in the hospital until days later.

(Reporting by Jasper Ward; Editing by Doina Chiacu)