Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller ordered the Pentagon to cancel meetings with the Biden transition team, Axios reported Friday, revealing that a Pentagon official said that staff involved in the transition were “overwhelmed.”
The start of the transition was delayed by election disputes, limiting the time to complete necessary tasks.
A defense official clarified parts of the Axios report, explaining that the Pentagon and the Biden transition team agreed to a break and that the transition meetings are being rescheduled for after the holidays.
The Pentagon is putting meetings with the Biden transition team on hold, reportedly because some Department of Defense staff have been feeling “overwhelmed.”
Axios first reported the cancellation of meetings with President-elect Joe Biden’s team Friday.
A defense official said in an emailed statement that the meetings were canceled due to competing priorities. The meetings are expected to be rescheduled for after the holidays, a two-week break agreed to by both the Pentagon and the Biden transition team.
While meetings are being canceled and rescheduled, other transition activities, such as answering requests for information and providing written materials, continued uninterrupted, the official explain.
Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, citing a senior Pentagon official, reported that the reason for the pause was because some of the Pentagon staff mebmers involved in the transition are “overwhelmed” by everything needed to be completed. Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe, reported that there have sometimes been as many as 20 meetings per day and that some people had raised concerns.
“We had fewer than two dozen remaining meetings on the schedule today and next week,” an official told Axios, explaining the department is “taking a knee” for a couple of weeks but is “still committed to a productive transition.”
The official said that “the DoD staff working the meetings were overwhelmed by the number of meetings,” adding that “these same senior leaders needed to do their day jobs and were being consumed by transition activities.”
The Trump administration delayed the start of the transition as the president disputed the results of the presidential election, forcing officials in federal departments and agencies involved in the transition process to scramble to hold all of the necessary meetings before Biden officially takes office on January 20.
A number of senior leaders are new to the Pentagon, including the defense secretary and the the senior official tasked with leading the transition.
Shortly after the election, Trump’s White House purged the Pentagon’s civilian leadership, specifically the secretary of defense and his chief of staff, as well as the top policy and intelligence positions, and filled vacant posts with Trump loyalists.
Kash Patel, the new chief of staff to the new acting secretary of defense, is a former Hill staffer and member of the National Security Council who is widely seen as a Trump ally. He took over the transition responsibilities at the Department of Defense after only two weeks on the job.
Talking about the newcomers, a former Pentagon official told Insider late last month that “the individuals being installed do not have the level of experience their predecessors did to assist with the transition.” The official said that the transition process would be “hampered because you will have new people that don’t have that experience.”
Update: This post has been updated with more information on the moves at the Pentagon provided by a defense official.
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