The Defense Department on Saturday pushed back on media reports that it denied members of President-elect Joe Biden’s transition team access to meetings with DoD intelligence agencies.
Numerous outlets reported on Dec. 4 that the DoD had rejected or not approved requests from Biden’s DoD Agency Review Team, attributing their information to anonymous sources.
Saturday afternoon, Acting Defense Secretary Chris Miller said the Pentagon was cooperating with the Biden transition team.
“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,” Miller said in a statement emailed to reporters. “The DoD and its transition leadership are 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.”
In a press call with reporters, senior defense officials, speaking anonymously to push back against those anonymous reports, called the allegations false. The defense officials said that the Biden Intelligence Community ART had reached out directly to DoD intelligence agencies for meetings when, according to the terms of the White House’s agreement with the Biden transition team, such requests should go through the DoD transition team, led by Director of Washington Headquarters Services Tom Muir.
Members of the Biden DoD ART are scheduled to meet with members of the DoD intelligence community including the Defense Intelligence Agency and National Security Agency on Monday and Tuesday next week, according to officials.
“The accusation by anonymous sources that DoD has not been fulfilling its commitment to professionally assist any of the Agency Review Teams is demonstrably false and patently insulting,” the DoD’s official statement said. “Stories run in the last day fail to reflect the dozens of interviews and meetings that have taken place and the many dozens more that are planned in the coming weeks.”
Senior defense officials also said the procedural issues had been worked out and meetings scheduled prior to the anonymous allegations that they had denied access. Officials from the Biden transition team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Biden DoD ART has already completed 21 meetings with key leaders, received more than 1,500 pages of transition-related documents, and is expected to complete 47 more in the coming week, according to officials.
The Biden transition team has requested that a majority of their meetings be held virtually, with only a handful being held safely in-person. Senior defense officials did not believe that the virtual format has restricted the sharing of information in any way, emphasizing how important a smooth transition is for the DoD as well as the future Biden administration.
Though some methods have been adapted because of the pandemic, officials said that the DoD has acted entirely in accordance with the agreements between the White House and the Biden transition team, laws regarding presidential transitions, and DoD policies.
“The DoD ART has provided the list of persons to interview, interviewers and topics to cover, and the Intelligence Community ART has now also contacted the DOD Agency Transition Director regarding their interview requests. This is the normal process,” the DoD statement said.
Harm Venhuizen is an editorial intern at Military Times. He is studying political science and philosophy at Calvin University, where he's also in the Army ROTC program.