(CN) — In a speech Monday, President-elect Joe Biden accused the Trump administration’s national security team of obstructing the transition, meaning his team will have to play catch up once he is sworn in as president Jan. 20.
“We’ve encountered roadblocks from the political leadership in the DOD and the OMB,” Biden said, referring to the Department of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget. “Right now, we just aren’t getting all the information that we need from the outgoing administration in key national security areas. It’s nothing short, in my view, of irresponsibility.”
Biden said many agencies are fully cooperative but the political leadership at the Pentagon — which President Donald Trump purged and installed loyalists immediately after his electoral defeat — is stymying the Biden team’s efforts to get up to date information.
“We need a clear picture of our force posture around the world so we can avoid any confusion or need to play catchup,” Biden said.
The president-elect also painted a grim picture of some of the most important national security agencies, saying they have been “hollowed out in terms of personnel, capacity and in morale.”
“The policy processes have been atrophied or been sidelined,” he said.
Biden didn’t restrict his criticisms to the transition and signaled he is eager to end the “America First” policies advocated by Trump.
Biden said the Trump administration’s decision to rebuff NATO allies and to undermine processes at the United Nations made Americans less safe.
“All of it makes it harder for our government to protect the American people and to defend our vital interests in a world where threats are constantly evolving and our adversaries are constantly adapting,” he said.
Biden also signaled his administration will be willing to work with global partners to solve large problems like climate change. He noted America’s contributions to the carbon emissions annually is around 15% and without cooperation from contributors of the other 85%, any national policies are likely to be insufficient.
The president-elect once again indicated he will be willing to participate in an increasingly bipartisan posture toward China that is more hawkish than his predecessors. But he said enlisting the help of allies in Asia and around the world are an integral part of such a posture.
“We are almost 25% of the global economy on our own, but together with our democratic partners, we more than double our economic leverage,” Biden said. “On any issue that matters to the U.S.-China relationship — from pursuing a foreign policy for the middle class, including a trade and economic agenda that protects American workers, our intellectual property, and the environment, to ensuring security and prosperity in the Indo-Pacific region, to championing human rights — we are stronger and more effective when we are flanked by nations that share our vision for the future of our world.”
Biden also talked briefly about vaccinations and the bombing incident in downtown Nashville, Tennessee, that took place over the weekend.
“This bombing was a reminder of the destructive power of an individual or a small group,” he said. “I know the hearts of all Americans are with the people of Nashville as they rebuild and recover from this traumatic event.”
The bombing, which destroyed blocks of Nashville’s iconic downtown area, replete with country music venues and famed bars and restaurants, appeared to be the act of a lone 63-year-old man. Authorities continue to investigate in hopes of finding a motive, and the man appears to have been the only one to die in the blast.
Trump has yet to comment on the incident.
Biden also talked about the need for the federal government to marshal its power to accelerate the timeline for Covid-19 vaccination distribution over the coming months.
“We want to make sure that our administration is poised to make full use of FEMA’s domestic reach and capacity in managing our Covid response,” the president-elect said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency which responds to natural disasters.
Biden will speak again Tuesday to discuss the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and is expected to provide more details regarding his vaccination rollout plan.