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Acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller ordered the Pentagon to cancel meetings with the Biden transition team, Axios reported Friday, adding that a Pentagon official said staff involved in the transition felt "overwhelmed."
A defense official said the Pentagon and the Biden transition team agreed to a break and that the canceled transition meetings were being rescheduled for after the holidays.
But the Biden transition team said it did not agree to any break, adding that it had encountered some "resistance" in the Pentagon and was "concerned" by the "abrupt halt" to transition meetings.
The Pentagon unexpectedly canceled meetings with President-elect Joe Biden's transition team, causing concern for the team.
Meetings originally scheduled for Friday were suddenly canceled, Axios first reported, writing that the order went out to the department Thursday night.
A defense official said the meetings were canceled because of competing priorities and were expected to be rescheduled for after a two-week hiatus agreed to by both sides. The official added that while some meetings were being canceled and rescheduled for later, other transition activities were continuing uninterrupted.
In a follow-on statement, acting Secretary of Defense Chris Miller said the Department of Defense "will continue with the transition and rescheduled meetings" after a "mutually-agreed upon holiday pause." He added that the Pentagon would fulfill its departmental transition obligations because "this is what our nation expects."
"The DoD will deliver AS IT ALWAYS HAS," he said.
A Biden transition spokesperson disputed the Pentagon's version of events at a press briefing Friday afternoon, saying the broader transition process had run into "isolated resistance," including from political appointees at the Department of Defense, and that the transition team was "concerned" by the "abrupt halt" to the transition meetings.
The Biden transition team also said there was never any mutual agreement to take a break from the transition process.
"We think it's important that briefings and other engagements continue during this period," Yohannes Abraham, a Biden transition spokesperson, said.
A senior Pentagon official told the Axios reporter Jonathan Swan that the acting defense secretary ordered the pause on transition meetings because some of the Pentagon staff involved felt "overwhelmed."
"We had fewer than two dozen remaining meetings on the schedule today and next week," a Pentagon official told Axios, adding that the Department of Defense was "taking a knee" for a couple of weeks rather than having those meetings but "still committed to a productive transition."
The Pentagon official said "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 Washington Post reporter Dan Lamothe reported there had sometimes been as many as 20 meetings per day, even as officials dealt with other demands, and that some people had raised concerns.
In a statement on the transition process, Miller said Friday that since November 23, the Department of Defense has conducted 139 interviews with 265 officials, responded to 161 requests for information, and provided 4,400 pages of controlled information and 900 pages of classified information in support.
And there is still work to be done.
The Trump administration delayed the start of the transition as the president disputed the results of the election, forcing officials in federal departments and agencies involved in the transition process to scramble to hold all of the necessary meetings before Biden takes office on January 20.
At the Pentagon, another challenge could be that some senior military leaders are new, including the acting defense secretary and the senior official tasked with leading the transition.
Shortly after the election, the Pentagon experienced a major upheaval as the secretary of defense and his chief of staff, as well as the top policy and intelligence officials, departed, leaving vacant posts for the Trump administration to fill with loyalists.
Talking to Insider about the newcomers, a former Pentagon official said last month that "the individuals being installed do not have the level of experience their predecessors did to assist with the transition."
The former official said the transition process could be "hampered because you will have new people that don't have that experience."
Update: This post has been updated with information from a defense official, the acting secretary of defense, and a Biden transition spokesperson.
Read the original article on Business Insider