U.S. President-elect Joe Biden will deliver a speech following a conference call on foreign policy on December 28, 2020 at his interim headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
President-elect Joe Biden said Monday his transition team had encountered “roadblocks” and “obstacles” among Trump administration officials at key agencies, hampering the new Biden administration’s efforts to prepare for the presidency.
“The truth is that many of the agencies vital to our security have suffered tremendous damage,” Biden said during a speech in Delaware after briefing from his national security and foreign policy agency review teams.
“Many of them have been eroded in terms of human resources, capacity and morale. The political processes have stunted or have been shut down,” Biden said.
Biden, who will take office in less than a month, highlighted the Department of Defense and the Office of Administration and Budget in his speech.
“Our team has received exemplary cooperation from some agencies,” said Biden. “We have encountered obstacles from the political leadership of that ministry from others, particularly the Ministry of Defense.”
He later added, “We have encountered obstacles from the political leadership in the Department of Defense and the Bureau of Administration and Budget. At the moment we are simply not getting all of the information we need from the outgoing administration for key national security areas.”
“In my opinion it’s nothing less than irresponsibility,” said Biden.
The Pentagon and the Bureau of Administration and Housekeeping did not immediately respond to CNBC’s requests for comment.
While the President-elect’s remarks were among his most critical of the Trump administration from the Wilmington lectern, they weren’t the first hint of Biden’s struggles with President Donald Trump’s Department of Defense.
Tensions between the Pentagon and Biden’s team became public earlier this month as incumbent Defense Secretary Christopher Miller decided to cancel meetings with the transition team for the remainder of the year.
Miller said in a statement that there was a “mutually agreed vacation break” but a Biden spokesman replied that no such agreement had been made.
“Let me be clear: there was no mutually agreed vacation break,” transition spokesman Yohannes Abraham told reporters.
It was weeks after the election when defense officials confirmed that the transition process within the Pentagon had begun.
“The first meeting today was via videoconference. It was a good, productive meeting and we set some ground rules,” said Tom Muir, director of Washington Headquarters Services, during a Pentagon briefing on November 24th.
“They look forward to participating in discussions here at the Pentagon,” added Muir, who will facilitate the transition process.
Muir said at the time that the Biden team will have dedicated office space in the Pentagon and reasonable access to information.
In his remarks on Monday, Biden applauded his agency review teams for their “excellent work” despite the coronavirus pandemic and delays in receiving federal funding from Trump’s General Services Administration. Those obstacles came after Trump refused to concede Biden and as his electoral team and others continue their efforts to overthrow the election.
According to Biden, it is an urgent concern “to ensure that nothing is lost during the handover between the administrations”.
“We need a comprehensive look at the current budget planning of the Department of Defense and other agencies to avoid the confusion and catch-up that our opponents may be trying to exploit.”