Pentagon, GOP breathe sign of relief after Trump cancels parade

Pentagon, GOP breathe sign of relief after Trump cancels parade
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The Pentagon is off the hook — at least for the time being — for planning President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE’s display of military might down Pennsylvania Avenue.

Trump cancelled his desired military parade after its $92 million price tag leaked to the media, blaming D.C. officials for the high cost and saying he’d attend a parade in Paris and one at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland instead.

The cancellation lifts a burden off the Pentagon, which would have had to divert resources for a parade as it works to recover from what it has described as a readiness crisis.

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It’s a prospect that put defense hawks at unease.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” Rep. Scott TaylorScott William TaylorEx-GOP Rep. Ryan Costello joins group pushing carbon tax Virginia New Members 2019 Overnight Defense — Presented by Raytheon — First lady's office pushes for ouster of national security aide | Trump taps retired general as ambassador to Saudis | Mattis to visit border troops | Record number of female veterans to serve in Congress MORE (R-Va.) said Friday morning on CNN, after the Pentagon postponed the parade but just before Trump’s tweet. “We’re still at war right now. And I serve a district that has more military veterans than any district in the nation, and our families have been shouldering a burden for over 17 years. I just don’t think this is a good call. The war hasn’t ended yet.”

Still, Trump suggested Friday he could try again in the future.

Trump has mused about having a military parade since before his inauguration. But the idea took root in earnest when he watched the Bastille Day parade in Paris in July 2017.

After watching France’s display, Trump told French President Emmanuel Macron that “we’re going to have to try to top it.”

In February, Trump officially ordered the Pentagon to start planning the parade. By March, the Pentagon released a memo with initial guidance.

The parade, originally scheduled for Veterans Day, would have marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I. The March memo said it would “focus on the contributions of veterans throughout the history of the U.S. military, starting from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 to today, with an emphasis on the price of freedom.”

It was to include a “heavy air component,” but not include tanks so as to minimize damage to local roads, according to the memo.

Administration officials initially pegged the cost at $10 million to $30 million, as relayed by White House budget director Mick MulvaneyJohn (Mick) Michael MulvaneyOvernight Health Care — Presented by National Taxpayers Union — Trump, Dems open drug price talks | FDA warns against infusing young people's blood | Facebook under scrutiny over health data | Harris says Medicare for all isn't socialism White House spokeswoman leaving to join PR firm Trump’s state of emergency declaration imperils defense budget MORE at a February congressional hearing.

In July, CNN first reported the cost was shaping up to be about $12 million.

But Thursday, CNBC first reported that the cost would be $92 million. About $50 million was to come from the Pentagon, while the rest was from interagency partners such as the Department of Homeland Security.

By comparison, one F-35A fighter jet costs about $89 million. The parade money likely would have come out of the operations and maintenance account, though, not the acquisition account, meaning cancelling the parade won’t necessarily buy a new fighter jet.

Todd Harrison, a defense budget expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that while $92 million is less than 1 percent of the Pentagon's budget, the real concern is time lost.

 

“If they spend weeks practicing and preparing for the parade, that comes at the expense of other training they could be doing,” Harrison said in an email. “You can always add more money to cover the costs of something like this, but you can never get the time back.”


Some veterans who the parade was meant to honor balked at the price tag.

“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” Denise Rohan, national commander of The American Legion, said in a statement Thursday. “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.”

Defense Secretary James MattisJames Norman MattisAllies wary of Shanahan's assurances with looming presence of Trump Congress closer to forcing Trump’s hand on Saudi support Trump nominates ambassador to Turkey MORE disputed the reported $92 million cost estimate, telling reporters traveling with him in South America that whoever gave out that number is “an idiot” who is “probably smoking something that is legal in my state.” Mattis hails from Washington state, where recreational marijuana is legal.

But by Thursday night, the Pentagon put out a statement saying the parade was postponed until 2019.

And on Friday morning, Trump said it was canceled.

“The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it. When asked to give us a price for holding a great celebratory military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it. Never let someone hold you up! I will instead attend the big parade already scheduled at Andrews Air Force Base on a different date, & go to the Paris parade, celebrating the end of the War, on November 11th. Maybe we will do something next year in D.C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN. Now we can buy some more jet fighters!” he tweeted.

It’s unclear what parade Trump is referring to at Andrews. A spokesman for the base said Friday the next planned event is its biennial air show, scheduled for May 2019.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser (D) took credit for “finally” getting through to the “reality star in the White House” about the costs of the parade.

The city estimated its costs alone, for which it would need to be reimbursed, would be $21.6 million. The bulk of that, $13.5 million, would be for policing. Other costs included traffic control, emergency medical and fire services, and public works.

Critics of the parade said Friday that cancelling it is the right thing to do.

Sen. Jack ReedJohn (Jack) Francis ReedPapering over climate change impacts is indefensible Why Democrats are pushing for a new nuclear policy GOP chairman: US military may have to intervene in Venezuela if Russia does MORE (D-R.I.), ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, vowed to continue asking questions about the costs of a parade, pledging that it won’t proceed without “careful analysis.”

“Halting this costly idea is the right call,” Reed said in a statement. “I know President Trump really wants to lead a big military parade past his D.C. hotel, but a real leader wouldn’t put his own wishes above what’s best for our troops. Spending $100 million on this parade is beyond wasteful. Defense dollars would be better spent equipping our troops, caring for veterans and enhancing national security.”