U.S. President-elect Joe Biden accused Trump loyalists at national security agencies of throwing up roadblocks to a smooth presidential transition and warned that adversaries could take advantage of the situation without better cooperation from the outgoing administration.
“We need to make sure nothing is lost in the hand-off between administrations,” he said after a meeting with his national security advisers as well as the teams responsible for the transition at related agencies. “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 singled out political appointees at the Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget for “obstruction,” and called on them to bring him up to speed on force posture and budgeting “in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch-up that our adversaries may try to exploit.”
Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller said the department had responded to 188 requests for information from the Biden team with more than 5,000 pages of controlled and classified information.
In a statement on Monday night, he said that defense 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. The American people expect nothing less and that is what I remain committed to,” Miller added.
It wasn’t the first time Biden has expressed displeasure of the pace of the transition. But with 23 days until his inauguration, his remarks on Monday displayed a mounting frustration with the outgoing Trump administration.
Biden said much work needs to be done to re-invest in diplomacy after four years of pulling back from international organizations and agreements. President Donald Trump withdrew the U.S. from the World Health Organization, the Paris Climate accord and the Iran nuclear deal.
Biden wants the U.S. to return to all three.
“Right now we have an enormous vacuum,” the president-elect said. “We’re going to have to regain the trust and confidence of the world that has begun to find ways to work around us, or work without us.”
The new administration will also inherit the response to what is believed to be a Russian-backed hack of federal government computer systems this month.
Biden said he’s still learning about the extent of that breach, but said it called for bipartisan cooperation to bolster cyber defenses. “This attack represents a grave risk to our national security, and we need to close the gap between where our capabilities are now and where they need to be,” he said.
After a delay of several weeks after the election, Biden has been receiving the presidential daily briefing — the same top-secret intelligence report given to Trump — several times a week since Nov. 30.
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