A massive parade that President Donald Trump ordered to showcase American military might this fall will probably cost tens of millions of dollars more than originally expected, officials said Thursday.
A U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss cost estimates that have not been finalized, said the final tally could be as high as $92 million depending on what military assets are included. The price tag, much higher than previous estimates, was first reported by MSNBC.
“Defense Department planning for the Military Veterans Day Parade continues and final details are still being developed,” Lt. Col. Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement.
The unusual military exposition in the heart of the U.S. capital, which Pentagon officials are scrambling to pull together, is a reflection of the president’s fondness for military pomp. According to a Pentagon memo circulated this spring, the Nov. 11 parade will highlight the contributions of service members dating to the Revolutionary War, “with an emphasis on the price of freedom.”
Officials have been planning the event since earlier this year, when the president, apparently inspired by a similar display he observed last year in France, discussed the parade in a meeting with senior officials at the Pentagon.
The cost and the symbolism of the parade – reminiscent, critics say, of shows of force by authoritarian governments – have generated criticism from Democrats and, privately, consternation among military officials at a time when the Pentagon is trying to demonstrate its might against competitors including Russia and China. Such large parades have been rare in recent U.S. history, though the George H.W. Bush administration staged a military parade in Washington in 1991 after the conclusion of the Persian Gulf War.
Earlier this year, a senior official said the parade would probably cost between $10 million and $30 million. Some share of the higher cost of close to $100 million is expected to be paid by other government agencies that would take part in organizing or securing the event.
Planning for the parade comes at a time when Trump has boasted of saving money by suspending joint military exercises with South Korea, part of his outreach to North Korea. The affected exercise would have cost about $14 million, far less than the parade’s current expected cost.
The Pentagon has said the event will incorporate a smaller annual District of Columbia Veterans Day parade and will feature a display of uniforms from different eras of U.S. history, along with reenactments. The parade route will stretch from the White House to the Capitol, passing in front of the Trump International Hotel.
The parade will feature a “heavy air component” but no tanks, the memo said, to avoid damaging the streets of Washington.
The American Legion, a veterans organization, said that while it appreciated that Trump wanted to show support for U.S. troops, other priorities should win out.
“However, until such time as we can celebrate victory in the war on terrorism and bring our military home, we think the parade money would be better spent fully funding the Department of Veterans Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible,” the group’s national commander, Denise Rohan, said in a statement.
(c) 2018, The Washington Post · Missy Ryan, Dan Lamothe