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'We're trying to remain a little subtle': Audio of 911 call for Secretary Lloyd Austin released

The defense secretary was hospitalized on Jan. 1 with complications resulting from prostate cancer treatment, but the White House wasn't informed until three days later.
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WASHINGTON — A 911 caller seeking an ambulance for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Jan. 1 asked the dispatcher to have first responders arrive on the scene in a discreet manner before transporting Austin to a military hospital.

"Can the ambulance not show up with lights and sirens? We're trying to remain a little subtle," said the caller, whose identity was redacted, according to an audio recording obtained by NBC News through a Virginia Freedom of Information request. The ambulance was dispatched to a single-family home on Austin’s street.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin speaks in Tel Aviv, Israel, on Dec. 18, 2023.Maya Alleruzzo / AP

Details of the 911 audio file from the Fairfax County Public Safety Department were first reported by The Daily Beast.

Austin was hospitalized on New Year's Day with complications resulting from prostate cancer treatment, but the Defense Department waited three days to inform the White House. Austin, who lives in Virginia, was released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland on Monday, and he'll be working from home as he recuperates, according to a statement he issued this week.

The 911 recording partly redacted information about Austin's medical condition, as well as his primary complaint. The recording includes a series of unredacted answers to questions from the dispatcher about his condition.

Austin didn't have chest pain, and he did feel like he was going to pass out, according to the caller's answers. The caller also said Austin was alert and hadn't vomited blood or had blood in his stool. One of the dispatcher's questions was redacted.

The caller also asked whether it was possible for the ambulance to take Austin to Walter Reed in Bethesda. The dispatcher asked the caller to let the medics know that when they arrived.

Austin faced harsh criticism for not immediately notifying the White House about his hospitalization. He later said he took full responsibility and "could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed."

"I commit to doing better," he added in his statement Jan. 6.

The Pentagon's inspector general has initiated a review of the matter, and the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee has opened a formal investigation.