WASHINGTON — One week after the nation voted to elect Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States, the transition appears to have hit a speedbump, one which has foreign allies raising concerns.
On Monday, Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said the Trump transition team had not yet moved into the Pentagon, adding he expected them to arrive sometime this week.
"We're ready to help them and help the transition team get started," Carter said. "I am committed to an orderly transition to our new commander in chief, President-elect Trump. That is something all of my predecessors my entire life have done [and] we're going to do it to that standard, we're going to do it warmly and we're going to do it to the best of our ability."
But there are signs that the transition is off to a rocky start, less than one week after Trump became president-elect.
On Friday, Trump reportedly deposed New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as the head of the transition in favor of Vice President-elect Mike Pence. However, The New York Times reported Tuesday that Pence has been unable to take charge, as he has yet to sign legal documents required to allow the transition team to begin working with the aides of President Barack Obama.
Until those documents are signed and a transition team formally announced, Trump's team is legally barred from reaching out to DoD or other agencies. A Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday that the Trump team has yet to reach out to the building, with Carter Chief of Staff Eric Rosenbach standing by waiting for the call.
Christie's former deputy chief of staff was convicted in federal court earlier this month along with another New Jersey transportation official for causing dangerous traffic tie-ups in September 2013 as political payback for a local official who did not endorse Christie.
That baggage did not serve Trump well, said a source who has advised on national security for the transition team. The resulting housecleaning of Christie loyalists has slowed things down and created within national security circles, "a lot of uncertainty."
One of those loyalists who appears to have been thrown overboard with Christie is former House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers. On Tuesday, he issued a statement that he was stepping down from the transition team, with speculation quickly arising that he was pushed out. Rogers, who was listed as the head of the national security transition team on an organizational chart obtained by Defense News, was seen in the intelligence community as a potentially stabilizing force on a Trump administration and was viewed as a likely nominee for a top post, perhaps CIA director.
"Replacing the leadership at the very top led to, basically, a stop while everything was getting sorted out," said the source. "There are going to be changes down the chain because of it. Things have slowed down a little bit."
Amid the flux, transition staffers are attempting to communicate through the press and foreign contacts a reassuring sense of continuity and stability to quell concerns. Those concerns, said the source, are more about the transition and less about Trump himself.
"I'm hearing so much feedback about how scared people are, our allies and partners, they don't have any idea who are these people, what are they doing, where do they come from," the source said. "I think it's an overreaction, but an understandable overreaction. Some of these countries have real security challenges."
Also on Tuesday, Eliot A. Cohen, a top adviser to Bush-era Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, set the national security Twitter network on fire with a statement slamming the Trump team. That was notable, as Cohen published a piece on Nov. 10 calling for young staffers who may disagree with Trump to still consider working for him in order to serve their country.
"After exchange [with] Trump transition team, changed my recommendation: stay away. They're angry, arrogant, screaming "you LOST!" Will be ugly," Cohen tweeted.
Pentagon Transition Team
It is unclear what impact Rogers leaving will have on the Pentagon, but there is speculation that more members of the transition team that were close to Christie may find themselves without a job.
In the organizational document, the "defense" arm of the transition is separate from the "national security" arm that Rogers was in charge of. The "defense" side is being led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, with Mira Ricardel also listed as "defense" under him and Michael Meese listed as the transition head for Veterans Affairs.
Ricardel is an interesting name. She spent the first two years of the George W. Bush administration as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for Eurasia before spending two more years as acting assistant secretary of defense for international security policy.
Ricardel then left the Pentagon for industry, primarily for a nine-year stint at Boeing, including seven years as vice president of business development for strategic missile and defense systems and two as vice president for international business development related to network and space systems. Since leaving Boeing, she has worked as a consultant for the Alexandria, Virginia-based Federal Budget IQ firm, while also reportedly advising the Trump campaign.
Unsurprisingly, given her background, Ricardel’s presence is probably a good thing for missile defense proponents.
In a September 2015 op-ed published by The Hill, Ricardel called for a robust investment in new missile defense technologies, including laser-based systems and a network of small satellites for tracking purposes. She also called for the US to expand its relationship with Israel over the Arrow weapon system in order to license those systems for production in the US as well as exporting them to allied nations.
Attempts to reach Ricardel through LinkedIn and Federal Budget IQ were not returned by press time.
Andrew Tilghman at Military Times contributed to this report. This story was updated 11/15/2016 at 4:07 PM Eastern with clarity on the transition team outreach to the Pentagon and comment from a source.