Though the Biden team did not publicly provide the names of some officials, the identities appear to be known within the agencies. A person briefed on the process said the Biden team picked Lora Shiao to perform the duties of the director of national intelligence until Mr. Biden’s nominee, Avril D. Haines, is confirmed by the Senate. Since September, she has served as the chief operating officer of that agency. Similarly, a person briefed on the decision said Monty Wilkinson, a low-profile human resources chief at the Justice Department, would step in as acting attorney general.
In some cases, finding an interim official was not simple. At the Defense Department, the Biden team struggled with putting a Trump appointee, David L. Norquist, in charge of the department, if only for a few days, until Mr. Biden’s nominee, Lloyd J. Austin III, is confirmed. By law, a Senate-confirmed deputy at the department, in this case, Mr. Norquist, automatically assumes the secretary’s duties when the secretary is absent. Mr. Biden ultimately chose to stick with tradition, and Mr. Norquist will fill in until Mr. Austin is sworn in.
The Biden transition team has cause, in at least one case, for not trusting Trump loyalists. In recent months, transition officials clashed with top Pentagon officials. First the Pentagon blocked the transition team’s access to some intelligence agencies. Then in mid-December, the Pentagon announced a “mutually agreed-upon holiday pause” in briefings, only to have Biden transition figures say there was no such agreement. The Pentagon put a Trump loyalist, Kashyap Patel, in charge of overseeing the transition, frustrating some members of the president-elect’s transition team.
In a sign of continuing tensions, the Biden transition team refused to give Christopher C. Miller, the acting defense secretary, office space in the Pentagon after the inauguration. A Biden transition team official cited Mr. Miller’s acting status and the coronavirus pandemic for the decision, which was reported earlier by Bloomberg.
At the Justice Department, the Biden team sought to find an interim attorney general who had not, at some point during the Trump administration, been involved in the myriad political scandals that have defined the agency.
In choosing Mr. Wilkinson — who has been overseeing human resources, security planning and the library at the Justice Department and is unknown even to most Washington insiders — the Biden transition team hoped for a steady and drama-free hand to run the department until Judge Merrick B. Garland, Mr. Biden’s nominee to be attorney general, could be confirmed in the coming weeks, according to a person briefed on the decision.
For the most part, the interim agency heads across the government who have been publicly named are career, nonpartisan officials.