Pentagon's top brass to attend Trump's 'Salute to America' July 4 event

The nation's top defense officials are slated to attend President Trump’s “Salute to America” event Thursday on the National Mall, adding to the military-style celebration that will also include tanks and flyovers.

Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and acting Air Force Secretary Matthew Donovan will be at the Independence Day event, according to an announcement from the Pentagon on Wednesday.

ADVERTISEMENT

“The president extended an invitation to Department of Defense leadership to celebrate alongside service members and their families this Fourth of July at the Salute to America event,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “In addition, the White House provided 5,000 tickets to the Department of Defense.”

Other officials attending the July 4 festivities include U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz, Army National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Daniel Hokanson, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Bob Burke, Vice Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Stephen Wilson, Marine Corps Development Command Deputy Commandant Lt. Gen. Eric Smith and Lt. Gen. Joseph Martin, the incoming Army vice chief of staff.

Notably absent from the list of attendees is Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller and Army Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Milley, Trump’s pick to be the next Joint Chiefs chairman.

The Pentagon said those individuals have previous engagements.

Salute to America is a new Independence Day event that's separate from the annual Independence Day parade and “A Capitol Fourth,” which consists of musical performances near the Capitol.

Trump’s event will include two Bradley Fighting Vehicle tanks, two M1A1 Abrams tanks, military aircraft flyovers by the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, the new "Marine One" VH-92 helicopter and a jetliner used as Air Force One.

Critics say Trump, who is slated to give a speech from the Lincoln Memorial at 6:30 p.m., is politicizing Independence Day. The White House has said the event will not be political.

Members of D.C.'s City Council have expressed concerns about the event, ranging from the cost to taxpayers to worries that the tanks could damage infrastructure.

Trump has been pushing for a military style celebration since viewing a Bastille Day event two years ago in Paris that included a military parade.

Last year, he pushed for a military parade to mark the centennial of the World War I armistice, but the effort was abandoned after reports that it would cost $92 million and as military leaders showed little enthusiasm for the event.

Updated at 12:15 p.m.