December 18, 2020
With President Trump’s time in office nearing its inevitable end, his administration’s efforts to leave the federal government as dysfunctional and unhelpful for President-elect Joe Biden’s incoming team continues apace. And in an alarming development, the tacit kneecapping of the Biden administration seems to have extended once again into the realm of national security.
Less than one month after Biden belatedly began receiving the classified Presidential Daily Briefings on national security issues, Axios has reported that Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller has abruptly ordered the Pentagon to stop cooperating with the incoming transition team entirely — a move that has reportedly “stunned officials throughout the Pentagon.”
The order to cancel all scheduled meetings with the Biden camp reportedly came late Thursday evening, with one senior DOD official telling Axios that the decision was intended to simply to help Pentagon staff who were feeling “overwhelmed by the number of meetings.”
“We are still committed to a productive transition,” that same official insisted.
Despite the protestations that this is business as usual, the move to fully cancel nearly two dozen official meetings with the incoming administration without warning is bizarre, if nothing else. And taken in the context of the Trump White House’s steadfast refusal to even acknowledge the president’s electoral defeat, much less admit that Biden will indeed become president on Jan. 20, the Pentagon’s abrupt pivot is more than a little concerning — particularly given the Trump administration’s demonstrated willingness to put both personal and domestic priorities ahead of the theoretically apolitical nature of national defense.
This is not, as it happens, the first speed bump for Biden’s national security team when it comes to interacting with the current Defense Department leadership. Earlier this month The Washington Post reported that Trump’s Pentagon leadership had refused Biden transition team requests for high level meetings with key DOD entities, such as the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency, even as other meetings between the Biden camp and non-Pentagon intelligence agencies had begun.
At the time, both current and former Pentagon officials told the Post that the delays were likely hampering the incoming Biden administration from fully engaging with ongoing intelligence operations against a host of adversarial nations, including Russia and Iran. And with this full-scale schism between the Pentagon and the Biden team likely to continue through the holidays, it appears as if that seemingly deliberate handicap will only deepen before Inauguration Day.