Defense bill would authorize Trump's military parade

Defense bill would authorize Trump's military parade
© Greg Nash

House Republicans are supporting President TrumpDonald John TrumpGrassley: Dems 'withheld information' on new Kavanaugh allegation Health advocates decry funding transfer over migrant children Groups plan mass walkout in support of Kavanaugh accuser MORE’s planned military parade with a provision in the annual defense policy bill that would allow the event to go forward.

According to a summary of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) released Friday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac ThornberryWilliam (Mac) McClellan ThornberryOvernight Defense: Details on defense spending bill | NATO chief dismisses talk of renaming HQ for McCain | North Korea warns US over cyber allegations Armed Services chairman laments 'fringe elements in politics' Overnight Defense: Mattis dismisses Woodward's book as 'fiction' | House moves to begin defense bill talks with Senate | Trump warns Syria after attack on rebel areas | Trump, South Korean leader to meet at UN MORE (R-Texas) “agrees with President Trump that it is appropriate to honor and celebrate 100 years of patriotic sacrifice in a way that expresses appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform, including a parade in the nation’s capital and a national celebration for that purpose.”

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The Pentagon confirmed in February that Trump had directed defense officials to begin planning a military parade, apparently inspired by the Bastille Day parade he saw when he visited France.

In March, the Defense Department released a memo saying the parade would be held Nov. 11, the 100th anniversary of the end of the World War I.

The parade is meant to highlight contributions of veterans throughout U.S. history and is to include veterans wearing period uniforms, according to the memo. The memo also stipulates that only wheeled vehicles are to be used, not tanks.

At the time of the Pentagon’s confirmation in February, Thornberry told reporters that he didn’t “know that it’s necessary” to have a parade and that the best way to support to the troops is through an increased defense budget.

In order to ensure the parade does not leave the military flat-footed, the NDAA “prohibits the use of operational units or equipment in the parade if the secretary of Defense believes such use will hamper readiness,” according to the summary of the bill.

A summary from committee Democrats, though, puts a different emphasis on the provision.

The bill “authorizes the Defense secretary to use any kind of motorized vehicle, aviation platform, munition, operational military unit or operational military platform, unless he believes its use will affect its readiness,” the Democratic summary said.

The bill would also authorize for use in the parade military units that perform customary ceremonial duties and small arms and munitions appropriate for customary ceremonial honors, according to the Democratic summary.

During a background briefing with reporters, Republican committee staffers said the bill leaves equipment use up to the discretion of Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisOvernight Defense: Trump identifies first soldier remains from North Korea | New cyber strategy lets US go on offense | Army chief downplays talk of 'Fort Trump' Pompeo backed continued US support in Yemen war over objections from staff: report Stand with veterans instead of predatory for-profit colleges MORE and does not require him to certify to Congress that readiness will not be affected.

The bill language, which is being released Monday, mentions things like ceremonial units that are traditionally used in parades, the staffers said. The bill does not mention specific costs and timing for the parade, they added.

“What the chairman is comfortable with is veterans-- you’re going to of course see a 21-gun salute, you’re going to see firing of cannons and things like that. That’s OK. That’s traditional ceremonial function,” a staffer said. “We don’t want to see tanks rolling down Pennsylvania Avenue.”

The inclusion of the provision is likely to spark debate when the committee meets to the consider the bill Wednesday.

In the bill’s summary, committee Republicans fired a shot across the bow of those who oppose the parade.

“For too long our men and women in uniform have been victims of political discord,” the summary said. “Honoring those who have served our nation over the past 100 years, including those who served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, should not be a political matter.

"Veterans of those conflicts did not let politics stand in the way of their service to the country. No political interest or concern should stand in the way of expressing the country’s gratitude and respect."

Updated at 2:22 p.m.