Pentagon Denies Friction, Delays with Biden Transition Team

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Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville speaks with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller
Army Chief of Staff Gen. James C. McConville speaks with Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller and Miller’s Chief of Staff Kash Patel, at the opening of the National Museum of the United States Army, Fort Belvoir, Va., Nov. 11, 2020. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The Pentagon pushed back Saturday on allegations that the department has been slow in meeting requests from the Biden-Harris transition team and had blocked initial access to intelligence agencies run by the military.

In a background briefing, two senior Defense Department officials denied any attempt to slow-roll the transition and said meetings with President-elect Joe Biden's agency review teams were scheduled with the Defense Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency on Monday and Tuesday.

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The officials also denied that President Donald Trump's refusal thus far to concede the election was hampering the transition process at DoD.

In a statement Saturday before the background briefing, Acting Defense Secretary Christopher C. Miller said that DoD's own transition leadership was "fully cooperating with the Biden transition team, placing national security and the protection of the American people at the forefront of any and all discussions."

"Leadership transitions, be they from one company commander to the next or one presidential administration to another, are an area in which the department boasts a long record of bipartisan excellence," said Miller, a retired Army colonel.

Miller was installed Nov. 9 after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper via Twitter.

The senior DoD officials, who spoke on grounds of anonymity, took issue with news reports citing anonymous sources alleging that recent political appointees to the department, including Chief of Staff Kash Patel, may have been involved in denying on delaying requests from the Biden team.

One of the senior officials said the background briefing was being held "to correct the record on a good deal of misinformation that has been pushed in the last 24 hours on how DoD is handling the transition."

The second senior official said that "reporting about access to DoD intelligence agencies is untrue," adding that "Kash [Patel] has not been selecting individuals to do meetings." The official added that "Kash has not refused a single interview request."

However, the officials suggested that some of the mostly virtual meetings with the Biden team may have been delayed to make sure that the right DoD officials could attend.

The transition process usually begins quickly after each presidential election, but was delayed this year until Nov. 23, when the General Services Administration gave approval to all federal agencies to cooperate with Biden's teams.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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