WASHINGTON – President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. said on Monday his transition team faced “obstruction” from the Defense Department, raising new concerns about the Trump administration’s cooperation with officials in the transition to just over three weeks before opening day.
“Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information we need from the outgoing administration in key areas of national security,” Biden said in a brief speech in Wilmington, Del. “This is nothing short of irresponsibility in my opinion.”
Mr Biden spoke after he and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris participated in a briefing with members of the transition agency review teams for the Department of Defense, State Department and other agencies dealing with national security and foreign policy.
In his remarks, the president-elect complained that his team had “encountered roadblocks” from political leaders in the Defense Department as well as the Office of Management and Budget. Mr Biden stressed the importance of a smooth transition, saying: “Right now, as our country is in a period of transition, we need to make sure nothing is lost in the transfer between administrations. “
“My team needs a clear picture of our strong position in the world and of our operations to deter our enemies,” he continued. “We need full visibility into ongoing budget planning at the Defense Ministry and other agencies to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries might try to exploit.
In a statement Monday, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller defended the department’s level of cooperation with Biden’s team.
“Our DOD policy and career leaders have worked with the utmost professionalism to support the transition activities on a tight schedule, and they will continue to do so in a transparent and collegial manner that respects the finest traditions of the department,” did he declare. “The American people expect nothing less, and that’s what I remain committed to.”
The Biden transition was initially hampered by the Trump administration’s delay in formally naming Mr. Biden as the apparent winner of the election. More recently, the president-elect and his team have complained about their dealings with the Pentagon in particular.
Ahead of Christmas, Yohannes Abraham, executive director of Biden transition, said the president-elect’s team had encountered “isolated resistance in some corners, including from political appointees within the Defense Department” . He expressed concern over what he described as “a sudden end to already limited cooperation in this country”.
Mr Miller had referred to a “mutually agreed vacation break” but Mr Abraham said no such deal had been reached.
And last week, at an event in which Mr. Biden criticized President Trump for downplaying Russian hacking of the federal government and private companies, Mr. Biden said: “The Defense Department will not let us know. not even a lot of things. ” The ministry responded by calling the claim “patently false”.
After Mr. Trump’s post-election sacking of Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and a purge of senior departmental leadership, the Pentagon is under the political control of several Trump loyalists, including Kashyap Patel, chief of staff of the department. Mr Miller, who is best known for his efforts to discredit the Russia investigation while he was an assistant to the Republican Congress.
Michael crowley contribution to reports.