Sat, 22 Sep 2018
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Saint Petersburg

Trump scraps his military parade, blames DC for high cost

By Sheetal Sukhija, St Petersburg News
18 Aug 2018, 02:03 GMT+10

WASHINGTON, U.S. - A day after reports revealed that the U.S. President Donald Trump’s military parade was set to cost $80 million more than the initial estimate - the Department of Defense announced that the parade would be postponed until 2019.

However, on Friday, blaming the "ridiculously high" price tag on local Washington D.C. politicians, the President officially cancelled all plans for his big military parade.

The parade was set to be held on Veterans Day, and Trump’s decision to nix it comes a day after U.S. officials claimed that the November 10 event could cost $92 million - which is more than three times the price first suggested by the White House.

Accusing local Washington, D.C., politicians of price-gouging, Trump wrote in a two-part tweet, “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!”

How it all started

Trump, who was reported to have scrapped plans for tanks rolling through the streets of Washington DC during his inauguration, was awestruck by France’s Bastille Day parade, which he attended in July 2017.

Since then, the U.S. President repeatedly praised French military might and then, in February this year, he ordered the White House and the Defense department to organize a grand military parade through the streets of Washington.

During the month, DC witnessed a heated debate over Trump's plans for the grand military parade, with critics, including Democrats and several Defense experts arguing that such a display could be an unnecessary show of raw military power.

Many even claimed that massive military parades evoke the tactics used by authoritarian countries like China and North Korea but not a democracy like America, which is sure of its military strength. 

And it wasn’t just Democrats, but Republican Senator Lindsey Graham too argued that such a parade risks being "kind of cheesy and a sign of weakness" if it's all about showing off military hardware.

GOP Sen. John Kennedy (La.) also said, “I think confidence is silent and insecurity is loud. America is the most powerful country in all of human history; you don’t need to show it off. We’re not North Korea, we’re not Russia and we're not China, and I don’t want to be. And for that reason I would be against flaunting our strength. We don’t need to; everybody knows we have it."

Further, Reps. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) and Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), military veterans on the House Armed Services Committee and Foreign Affairs Committee, respectively, wrote a letter to Mattis urging him to tell Trump such a parade would be “frivolous.”

They wrote, “No one in the world doubts the strength of our military or the professionalism of our men and women in uniform. A parade will not alter that perception. Instead, it will likely prompt ridicule from our friends and foes alike. It should go without saying that just because authoritarian regimes like Russia and North Korea hold massive military parades does not mean that we must as well.”

Even top Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee Defense Subcommittee sent a letter to Mattis demanding answers on the cost of such an event.

They wrote, “At a time of war, with American service members serving in harm’s way, such a parade seems to be inappropriate and wasteful. Every penny of the millions of dollars that the parade would cost and every second of the tens of thousands of personnel hours its execution would require, should be devoted to the most essential missions of the Department of Defense — protecting the American people and our security interests.”

However, the White House and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis pushed ahead with plans to make the parade grand and pompous.

Mattis claimed that Trump’s plan reflects the President’s respect for the armed forces.

Making the case for an adequate and stable defense funding, Mattis explained at the time, “I think we’re all aware in this country of the president’s affection and respect for the military. We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them up to the White House for decision.”

He added, “I think what my responsibility is to make certain I lay out the strategy and make the argument for the oversight of Congress to make the determination of fully funding us. As far as the parade goes, again, the president’s respect, his fondness for the military, I think is reflected in him asking for these options.”

What next?

On Thursday, a report in CNBC revealed that Trump’s planned military parade in Washington, D.C. is estimated to cost $92 million - $80 million more than was initially thought. 

The report stated that the Department of Defense's updated cost estimates includes $50 million from the Pentagon and $42 million from interagency partners, including the Department of Homeland Security. 

The proposed parade was set to include “approximately eight tanks and other armored vehicles such as Bradley Fighting Vehicles and Strykers and flyovers from a variety of military aircraft, all accompanying thousands of active-duty U.S. service members.”

It also pointed out that the soaring costs were set to fuel opposition to the parade from Democrats and some Republicans, who fear that the display may look "totalitarian" as it winds its way through the streets of D.C.

Further, it quoted the American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan as saying in an official statement, “The American Legion appreciates that our President wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops. 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 Veteran Affairs and giving our troops and their families the best care possible.”

The report also quoted a Pentagon spokesperson as saying that the Defense Department is planning on making a formal announcement about the costs soon. 

In response to the report, Mattis laughed at the reported cost and said no cost estimation had been carried out so far.

He said, “Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that is legal in my state, but not in most states. I’m not dignifying that number with any reply. I would discount that. And anybody who said that, I almost guarantee you one thing, they probably said ‘I need to stay anonymous.’ No kidding, because you look like an idiot. And No. 2, whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I'll just leave it at that.

However, the same day as the report appeared, the Department of Defense announced that the procession would be postponed until an undetermined date in 2019.

Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning said in a statement, “The Department of Defense and White House have been planning a parade to honor America’s military veterans and commemorate the centennial of World War I. We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

Then, on Friday, following Trump’s angry tweet cancelling the parade, and his attempt to lay the blame for the high price tag on Washington city council officials - the Mayor of Washington DC replied to the President.

The Democratic mayor of Washington, DC, Muriel Bowser wrote on Twitter, “Yup, I’m Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities ($21.6M) of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad).”

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