Trump Postpones Military Parade, Citing High Costs

Aug 17, 2018
Originally published on August 20, 2018 1:29 pm
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President Trump will be attending a military parade this coming Veterans Day, it just won't be the one he wanted to attend or even in this country. The parade Trump is going to is in Paris, and it will be marking the 100th anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I. President Trump had wanted a military parade in Washington. But the White House canceled those plans last night, saying, maybe next year. NPR Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman is here to explain what happened. And, Tom, why did the president change his mind?

TOM BOWMAN, BYLINE: Well, he blamed the cancellation on the Washington, D.C., government, the local government. He said officials saw what he called a windfall and overcharged the federal government for their role in the parade that was scheduled for November 10. Muriel Bowser, the mayor, estimated the cost at about $22 million for Washington, most of that money to pay for police. So that's just one part of the cost. The Pentagon has estimated that - anywhere from 13 million to 30 million for their efforts, and there were reports that the price tag could be as high as 92 million.

Now, defense secretary Jim Mattis shot down that number. But others I talked with at the Pentagon say that number was pretty accurate. The president said it's possible the parade could be staged next year if the cost from the D.C. government comes way down. And he added that the - with the savings, quote, "we can buy some more jet fighters." Well, the cost of one Joint Strike Fighter, Audie? Ninety-four million dollars.

CORNISH: It's interesting that the president will be back in Paris to see another military parade because it was a year ago - right? - where French President Emmanuel Macron put on a show for him in Paris. That's the genesis of this idea, reportedly.

BOWMAN: That's right. It was a Bastille Day parade. The president came back to Washington and said he wants his own parade. So the military went to work and came up with options. One problem was trying to get active-duty troops to take part in this. And, you know, they're quite busy in Iraq and Afghanistan. Others are training up to go overseas. So that was difficult. So they came up with a plan to have ceremonial troops, like the Army's old guard and also midshipmen cadets from the service academies, and then clearly a lot of military aircraft and armored vehicles as well.

CORNISH: How did the military actually feel about this?

BOWMAN: Well, publicly, course they salute and say, we'll start planning, Mr. President. But some officers I spoke with privately just simply rolled their eyes. Others talked about the cost and said, if you want to support the military, how about a bigger pay raise for soldiers? And still others point out that the president wants this parade to honor troops, but he has yet to visit troops in combat in either Iraq or Afghanistan.

Now, the last time you had such a parade was in 1991 after the first Gulf War. General Norman Schwarzkopf led troops down Pennsylvania Avenue. But that parade was partly funded by a private foundation. And, of course, the key word there is after the first Gulf War. There's no sense when U.S. troops will leave Iraq, Afghanistan or even Syria.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Pentagon correspondent Tom Bowman. Tom, thanks for your reporting.

BOWMAN: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.