Pentagon to resume briefings for Biden transition team after ‘irresponsible’ delays, report says

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Richard Hall
·3 min read
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 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Pentagon officials will resume national security briefings with Joe Biden’s transition team following nearly two weeks of delays that caused alarm among the president-elect’s advisors, according to reports.

Jake Sullivan, Mr Biden’s incoming national security advisor, said this week that the Defense Department had not granted a meeting with the transition team since 18 December.

"Literally dozens of written requests for information are outstanding as we speak," he told NPR, adding that his team was being kept in the dark about vital national security issues such as a massive cyberattack on US government agencies last month.

The Department of Defense claimed the break was due to a “mutually agreed-upon holiday pause,” something the Biden transition team denied.

The lull is set to end next week, according to Foreign Policy reporter Jack Detsch, when some 30 interviews are scheduled between the Biden transition’s agency review team and top Pentagon officials, including commanders in Afghanistan, South Korea and Africa.

Transition officials also said the DoD held three briefings with Mr Biden’s team this week on Covid-19 and cybersecurity, the Wall Street Journal reported.

Outgoing president Donald Trump has refused to concede defeat in November’s presidential election despite losing to Mr Biden by more than seven million votes and has instead promoted debunked conspiracy theories about the vote being rigged. He has stymied the transition process whenever possible in the vain hope that he can somehow overturn the results and remain in power.

Mr Trump’s numerous failed legal challenges to the results delayed the official start of the transition even before the DoD’s briefings were abruptly halted. Then on 18 December, acting defense secretary Chris Miller reportedly ordered a “Pentagon-wide halt” to cooperation with the President-elect’s transition team.

Such briefings are a crucial part of transitions between administrations, given incoming officials detailed information about national security threats and funding, among other things, so they are ready to effectively manage the department from day one.

The chaotic transition period between outgoing Bill Clinton and George W. Bush were cited by some as a determining factor in intelligence failures which allowed the 9/11 attackers to escape detection.

Senior transition official Yohannes Abraham said in a press briefing on Wednesday that the “lack of cooperation has real-world implications, most concerningly as it relates to national security…There are also health and economic repercussions to this obstruction.”

Those comments came just two days after Mr Biden commented on the delays for the first time, having stayed out of the fray until now.

"We have encountered roadblocks from the political leadership at the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget," the president-elect said after a briefing from his national security advisers.

"Right now, we just aren't getting all the information we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas," he said. "It's nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility."

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