WASHINGTON — Eight days after Donald Trump secured the right to be the next president of the United States, his transition team is setting up shop at the Department of Defense.
Peter Cook, the Pentagon's top spokesman, announced Thursday that the transition team for the Trump administration would be moving into the building Friday morning.
"Representatives of the president-elect's transition team contacted the department a short time ago to arrange initial briefings. We expect the first will take place Friday," Cook said. "As [Secretary of Defense Ash Carter] has said, we will do everything we can to help ensure a seamless and efficient transition."
The Trump transition has come under fire from veterans of the process for going too slowly and showing a chaotic front to the public. Originally, the process was being run by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, but he was forced out in a coup reportedly organized by Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner. Christie was replaced by Vice President-elect Mike Pence. (According to media reports, Kushner was enacting a measure of revenge on Christie for having prosecuted Kushner’s father years before when Christie was a US attorney.)
It took several days for Pence to fill out the regulatory forms required to set up the formal transition and begin having discussions with the Department of Defense and Department of State. During that time period, president-elect Trump apparently had several phone calls with world leaders, including with Russia, leading to further consternation from the DC circuit about whether Trump was adequately briefed to have those discussions.
But the transition can now formally start, with decisions on the top appointees expected to come in the next few weeks.
An organizational document from the Trump team, obtained by Defense News last week, laid out a preliminary group of individuals who would handle the transition. On that chart, the "defense" arm of the transition is separate from the "national security" arm that former member of Congress Mike Rogers was in charge of. However, Rogers has since resigned, reportedly as part of the internal power struggle that saw Christie fall from grace.
Retired Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, who advises Donald Trump on foreign policy and military issues, speaks to the media in the lobby at Trump Tower on Nov.15, 2016, in New York.
Photo Credit: Drew Angerer/Getty Images
The "defense" side is being led by retired Army Lt. Gen. Keith Kellogg, with former Pentagon official and Boeing executive Mira Ricardel, also listed as "defense" under him, and retired Army Brig. Gen. Michael Meese listed as the transition head for Veterans Affairs.
One job has already been decided, with retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former chief of the Defense Intelligence Agency, widely expected to be named Trump's National Security Advisor in the near future.
Aaron Mehta was deputy editor and senior Pentagon correspondent for Defense News, covering policy, strategy and acquisition at the highest levels of the Defense Department and its international partners.