With President-elect Joe Biden's inauguration right around the corner, the federal government should knee-deep in the transition. But instead of making it a smooth process, Biden says his transition team is dealing with "roadblocks" from President Trump's defense officials. If Trump officials continues to be uncooperative, it could mean that Biden's administration gets off to a slow start.
Since Election Day, Trump has refused to admit defeat to Biden, leading to a slew of lawsuits filed by his campaign and Republicans to overturn the results. Trump's administration has backed his refusal to acknowledge reality by delaying Biden's transition. To start, the head of the General Services Administration refused to give the go-ahead to start the formal transition process until the end of November. As a result, Biden was delayed in receiving classified presidential daily briefings on national security issues.
The dysfunctional transition process continued into December. After receiving a virtual briefing from members of his team Monday, Biden said his team has "encountered obstruction" and "roadblocks" within the Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget. He went on to call current officials' delay in sending over information on key national security areas irresponsible.
"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," Biden added. "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 response to Biden's remarks, the Defense Department told CNN that it has three briefings scheduled with Biden's transition team this week. The Pentagon'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 of information in our purview," Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said.
However, Miller's assertion that the Defense Department's efforts have surpassed those of other administrations doesn't line up with the facts. While Trump's administration as a whole has been uncooperative with the transition process, Defense Department leadership in particular has been a recurring issue. Earlier this month, The Washington Post reported that the Pentagon wouldn't allow Biden's transition team into high-level meetings with key DOD entities. And two weeks ago, reports broke that Miller ordered the Pentagon to stop cooperating with Biden's transition team at all. Per Axios, the move reportedly "stunned officials throughout the Pentagon," though a Trump administration official said the order came simply because Pentagon staff were "overwhelmed" by the number of meetings they had.
In further direct contrast to Miller's claims, a Biden transition official told CNN that the Defense Department continues to "deny and delay" meetings. The official added, "There has been no substantial progress since transition officials spoke to the intransigence of the department's political leadership earlier this month. As the president-elect alluded to, no department is more pivotal to our national security than the Department of Defense, and an unwillingness to work together could have consequences well beyond Jan. 20."