SecDef: Trump Transition Team Hasn't Come to the Pentagon Yet

November 14, 2016

President-elect Donald Trump's transition team has not yet come to the Pentagon, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Monday morning.

Carter told an audience in Washington, D.C., that the Pentagon has "procedures in place" to welcome Trump's transition team but that it has not yet arrived.

"We have procedures in place," Carter told editor in chief of The Atlantic Jeffrey Goldberg when asked whether Trump's transition team had been in touch with the Defense Department. "The transition team hasn't arrived at the Pentagon yet. These practices, by the way, were settled upon weeks ago, before the election was concluded. This is normal."

Carter went on to estimate that the team will come sometime this week, though he seemed uncertain.

"They have not come yet," Carter said. "They are expected, I think, sometime this week, but that is up to them."

The defense secretary emphasized that the Pentagon is "ready to welcome" the new administration's transition team, expressing his pride in how the senior leaders of the U.S. military have stayed out of the debate over the presidential election throughout the process.

"I myself have witnessed transitions in the past, and I am extremely proud of two things about us," Carter said. "The first is that not only I ... but all of our senior leadership have adhered to our tradition to stand apart from the political process."

"The second thing is I am committed to an orderly transition to our new commander in chief, President-elect Trump," Carter said. "We're going to do it to standard; we are going to do it warmly; we are going to do it to the best of our abilities so that we hand off things to the new administration in the best way that we possibly can."

Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, the vice president-elect, is leading Trump's transition team. Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, retired Army Lt. Gen. Mike Flynn, former Republican Rep. Mike Rogers, and several others are said to be playing key roles in defense and national security during the transition.

Carter participated in the discussion hosted by The Atlantic in the nation's capital less than a week after Trump, the Republican nominee, was declared president-elect over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton.

It is thus far unclear who Trump will name defense secretary, though several individuals have been rumored to be under consideration, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions, former Missouri Sen. Jim Talent, and former George W. Bush national security advisor Stephen Hadley.

Later during the discussion, the defense secretary sidestepped a question about Trump's controversial comments about NATO.

"I'm not going to speak about and I certainly cannot speak for the new administration," Carter said.

Trump has repeatedly said that America's NATO allies should pay more for their own defense. The Republican nominee received criticism for implying during an interview with the New York Times in July that he would only come to the defense of a NATO ally in the event of Russian invasion if the country was meeting its defense spending obligations in the alliance.

When pressed on his message to America's allies, Carter encouraged NATO partners to "engage" with the Trump administration.

"I have no warrant to speak for a future administration," Carter said. "The only thing I would say is engage with the new administration. Work with them. Stay committed to the values and the principles that we have stood for. Remember that we have a lot of people who are trying to attack all of us collectively and we are much better at protecting ourselves when we work together."