US President-elect Joe Biden is warning of massive damage done to the national security apparatus by the Trump administration and “roadblocks” in communication between agency officials and his transition team that could undermine Americans’ security.
During remarks on Monday in Wilmington, Delaware, Biden said his team has faced “obstruction” from the “political leadership” at the Defense Department and the Office of Management and Budget as they’ve sought to gather necessary information to continue the transition of power.
“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,” Biden said.
He warned that his team needs “full visibility” into the budget process at the Defense Department “in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.” He also said they need “a clear picture of our force posture around the world and of our operations to deter our enemies.”
Biden’s remarks came after he was briefed by members of his national security and defense teams and advisers, including his nominees for secretary of State, Defense and Homeland Security, as well as his incoming national security adviser. The president-elect said his team found that agencies “critical to our security have incurred enormous damage” during President Donald Trump’s time in office.
“Many of them have been hollowed out in personnel, capacity and in morale,” he said. “All of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people, to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting.”
Trump has still refused to concede an election he lost by more than 7 million votes, and his administration did not authorize official cooperation with the Biden transition team until Nov. 23, weeks after the election. Biden and his aides warned at the time that the delay was hampering their ability to craft their own vaccine rollout plan, but have since said cooperation on that and other issues related to coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has improved.
Last week, however, Biden himself said that the Defense Department “won’t even brief us on many things” and suggested because of this, he didn’t have a complete understanding of the full scope of the recent cyberhack that breached numerous government systems.
Pentagon officials pushed back on Biden’s characterization of the disconnect between the Defense Department and the Biden team. Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said in a statement that the department has conducted 164 interviews with over 400 officials, and provided over 5,000 pages of documents, which is “far more than initially requested by Biden’s transition team.” CURRENTPH