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US Defense Secretary transfers duties to deputy after medical emergency

WASHINGTON, Feb 12 (KUNA) -- Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin delegated his duties to deputy secretary of defense, Kathleen Hicks, after he was hospitalized, the Pentagon said.
Pentagon spokesman Major General Patrick Ryder said in a press conference that Secretary Austin transferred the functions and duties of the office on Sunday to the Deputy Secretary of Defense who has assumed functions and duties.
He added that the United States Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House and Congress have been informed and that Secretary Austin remained in hospital and receiving treatment.
On December 22, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin underwent surgery which led to infections and serious complications and was hospitalized again in January but the White House was not notified until three days later.
The failure to notify the White House and the public raised strong criticism, which led the White House to conduct a review of protocols and the Secretary of Defense issued a statement announcing his readiness to take responsibility.
Despite the White House decision to review protocols, its spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre and Coordinator for Strategic Communications at the National Security Council, John Kirby, denied that the administration was going to fire Secretary Austin. (end) amm.dss