“For some agencies, our teams received exemplary cooperation from the career staff in those agencies. From others, most notably the Department of Defense, we encountered obstruction from the political leadership of that department,” Biden said on Dec. 28, while giving remarks in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden has declared victory in the 2020 election and is in the midst of planning to take office. President Donald Trump is still contesting election results, but authorized the transition to start last month.
“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. 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,” Biden said.
“But as I said from the beginning, we have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller responded within hours, saying in a statement that the Pentagon has already conducted 164 interviews with more than 400 officials and provided over 5,000 pages of documents, numbers he said were “far more than initially requested by Biden’s transition team.”
The Department of Defense’s “efforts already surpass those of recent administrations with over three weeks to go and we continue to schedule additional meetings for the remainder of the transition and answer any and all requests for information in our purview,” Miller said.
Pentagon 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.”
Biden’s team and the Pentagon clashed earlier this month over a pause in the transition during Christmas.
While Miller said that pause was “mutually agreed-upon,” a Biden spokesperson disagreed.
“There was no mutually agreed-upon holiday break” for the transition briefings, Yohannes Abraham said, adding, “We were concerned to learn this week about an abrupt halt in the already limited cooperation there, and as indicated by DOD earlier today, we expect that decision will be reversed.”
Miller, who says the Pentagon hasn’t canceled or declined any interviews, indicated that he remains committed “to a full and transparent transition.”