Joe Biden says his incoming administration is being obstructed by the Trump White House as the transition team hits roadblocks from the “political leadership” of national security agencies.
Delivering remarks after being briefed by his security and foreign policy teams, Mr Biden said they have encountered obstruction from both the Department of Defence and the Office of Management and Budget.
“Right now we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas,” Mr Biden said. “It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”
His comments come after acting defence secretary Chris Miller reportedly ordered a Pentagon-wide pause to cooperation with the incoming Biden administration two weeks b
Mr Biden said while most agencies and career staff cooperated with his transition team, they encountered obstruction from the political leadership specifically over defence and security planning.
“The truth is many of the agencies that are critical to our security have incurred enormous damage, many have been hollowed out in personnel capacity and in morale, and their policy processes have either atrophied or been sidelined,” Mr Biden said.
Immediately following the election the Trump administration purged senior leadership from the Pentagon, with Mr Miller replacing former defence secretary Mark Esper.
A senior defence department official told Axios that Mr Miller’s order to suspend meetings was a “simple delay of the last few scheduled meetings until after the new year” so overwhelmed staff could focus on their day job.
The order came as the intelligence community scrambled to respond to the massive SolarWinds cyberattack that breached multiple federal agencies, including Defence, State, Treasury, Homeland Security, Commerce and the Department of Energy’s National Security Administration, which is responsible for the country’s nuclear arsenal.
Mr Biden said Republicans and Democrats agreed the attack is a major risk to national security, and the should be able to work together to better deter, detect, disrupt and respond to malign cyber actors.
“We’re still learning about the extent of the SolarWinds hack and the vulnerabilities that have been exposed,” he said.
“And right now as our nation is in a period of transition we need to make sure that nothing is lost in the hand-off between the administrations. My team needs a clear picture of our force posture around the world and our operations to deter our enemies.”
Mr Biden said they were running into roadblocks and weren’t getting all the information they need from the outgoing Trump administration to fully respond the threat once taking office.
“We need full visibility into the budget planning underway at the defence department and other agencies in order to avoid any window of confusion or catch up that our adversaries may try to exploit,” he said.
Donald Trump initially refrained from making any comment about the hack but eventually broke his silence to play down the damage it had done and to try to divert suspicion from Russia, which his secretary of state Mike Pompeo had said was probably responsible.
Mr Trump tweeted: “The Cyber Hack is far greater in the Fake News Media than in actuality. I have been fully briefed and everything is well under control. Russia, Russia, Russia is the priority chant when anything happens because Lamestream is, for mostly financial reasons, petrified of discussing the possibility that it may be China (it may!). There could also have been a hit on our ridiculous voting machines during the election, which is now obvious that I won big, making it an even more corrupted embarrassment for the USA.”