December 30, 2020
President-elect Joe Biden said on Monday that his transition team had faced “obstruction” from the Defense Department—raising more concerns about the Trump Administration’s distinct lack of cooperation with the new White House denizens with just over three weeks until Inauguration Day, The New York Times reports.
“Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Biden stated in Wilmington, Delaware, after he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris were briefed about barricades put in place by agencies dealing with national security and foreign policy, like the Defense and State departments.
“It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility,” Biden said.
In his remarks, the president-elect said that his team had “encountered roadblocks” from political leaders at the Defense Department as well as at the Office of Management and Budget. Biden emphasized the importance of a smooth transition, saying, “Right now, as our nation is in a period of transition, we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the handoff between administrations.”
“My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies,” he continued. “We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the Defense Department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”
In a statement on Monday, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller, defended the department’s level of cooperation with the Biden team. He said the department was continuing “to schedule additional meetings for the remainder of the transition and answer any and all requests for information in our purview.”
“Our D.O.D. political and career officials have been working with the utmost professionalism to support transition activities in a compressed time schedule, and they will continue to do so in a transparent and collegial manner that upholds the finest traditions of the department,” Miller said. “The American people expect nothing less, and that is what I remain committed to.”
As the Times notes, the Biden transition was hamstrung at the outset by the Trump Administration’s delay in formally designating Biden as the apparent winner of the election. The head of the General Services Administration did not take that step until November 23.
More recently, Mr. Biden and his team have complained about their dealings with the Pentagon in particular.
A week before Christmas, Yohannes Abraham, the executive director of the Biden transition, said that the president-elect’s team had encountered “isolated resistance in some corners, including from political appointees within the Department of Defense.” He expressed concern about what he described as “an abrupt halt in the already limited cooperation there.”
Miller had cited a “mutually agreed-upon holiday pause,” but Mr. Abraham said that no such agreement had been made.
And last week, during an event at which Biden criticized President Trump for playing down the Russian hacking of the federal government and private companies, Biden said, “The Defense Department won’t even brief us on many things.
The department responded by calling that claim “patently false.”
Research contact: @nytimes