“As the president-elect noted yesterday, the Department of Defense continued to refuse to meet with members of our agency review team,” said Ned Price, spokesman for the Biden transition, in a statement to CNN.
“There has been no substantial progress since the transition authorities spoke about the Department’s political leadership intransigence at the end of last week,” said Price. “As we said then, no department is more important to our national security than the Department of Defense, and the reluctance to work together can have consequences far beyond January 20.”
An unnamed Pentagon official denied the allegations in a statement, saying Biden’s claim that the Defense Department did not inform his team was “patently false”.
Tensions between Biden’s transition and President Donald Trump’s political nominees at the Pentagon have been simmering for weeks, but this latest exchange marked a significant escalation, as unidentified Pentagon officials essentially accused Biden of lying when he was discussing cyberbreach with reporters on Tuesday and said the Department of Defense “doesn’t even tell us about many things”.
The Pentagon’s alleged stone wall covers a wide area of defense matters, say people familiar with the matter, including all of the SolarWinds hacker investigation.
The Pentagon instructed Biden’s transition team to receive instructions on the cyber attack from an interagency group, known as the Cyber Unified Coordination Group (UCG). This group, however, is not a Department of Defense entity. The information that Biden’s team is seeking – unsuccessfully, 28 days before taking office – is a deeper understanding of the Defense Department’s view of the cyber attack.
A Pentagon spokesman released a statement from an unidentified senior defense official, who said that Biden’s remark about the Department of Defense not offering briefings is “patently false”. The official did not respond directly or contradict the president-elect’s comment that his team is not being informed about the hack, which Russia is suspected of conducting.
“DOD conducted 163 interviews and 181 requests for information, which far exceed what the Biden-Harris team originally requested,” the official said in a statement to reporters.
The senior defense official acknowledged in the statement that the meetings had been interrupted for two weeks – another point of contention between the Pentagon and Biden’s team, who said he had not agreed to an interval of that duration with so few days left for the inaugural president of the elected.
“The Department will continue to provide the information and meetings necessary to ensure the continuity of the government,” said the senior defense officer in the statement. “As we said, the meetings will start again in early January and, in fact, we have started to schedule them.”
Last week, CNN reported that acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller said Biden’s new team agreed to a two-week holiday in the Pentagon’s previously scheduled transition negotiations.
Biden’s transition team said on Friday that it did not agree to a two-week break in critical power transfer discussions with Pentagon officials, despite Miller’s claim that both sides agreed to take this “holiday break” “.
“There was no mutual agreement on the holiday,” Yohannes Abraham, executive director of the Biden transition, told reporters on Friday. “In fact, we think it is important that briefings and other commitments continue during this period, as there is no time to lose.”