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Donald Trump

Pentagon rains on parade: Trump’s long-desired military extravaganza is postponed after US$92 million cost revelation

The postponement from November until next year came after it was revealed costs had tripled

PUBLISHED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 8:40am
UPDATED : Friday, 17 August, 2018, 9:29pm

A military parade ordered by US President Donald Trump for later this year has been postponed until at least 2019, a defence official announced on Thursday, after it was revealed that costs for the extravagant event had tripled to US$92 million.

“The Department of Defence and White House have been planning a parade to honour America’s military veterans and commemorate the centennial of first world war,” said Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning.

“We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”

Hours earlier, officials said costs had blown out to US$92 million. Roughly US$50 million would cover Pentagon costs for aircraft, equipment, personnel and other support for the parade in Washington. The remainder would be borne by other agencies and largely involve security costs.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that had not yet been finalised or released publicly.

Officials said the plans had not yet been approved by Defence Secretary James Mattis.

The parade’s cost has become a politically charged issue, particularly after the Pentagon cancelled a major military exercise planned for August with South Korea, in the wake of Trump’s summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

Trump said the drills were provocative and that dumping them would save the US “a tremendous amount of money”. The Pentagon later said the Korea drills would have cost $14 million.

Before the postponement announcement, Lietutenant-Colonel Jamie Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, would only say that Defence Department planning for the parade “continues and final details are still being developed. Any cost estimates are pre-decisional. We will announce more information when it is available.”

The parade had been expected to include troops from all five armed services – the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard – as well as units in period uniforms representing earlier times in the nation’s history. It also is expected to involve a number of military aircraft flyovers.

A Pentagon planning memo released in March said the parade would feature a “heavy air component,” likely including older, vintage aircraft. It also said there would be “wheeled vehicles only, no tanks – consideration must be given to minimise damage to local infrastructure.” Big, heavy tanks could tear up streets in the District of Columbia.

The memo from Mattis’ office provided initial planning guidance to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. His staff is planning the parade along a route from the White House to the Capitol, and would integrate it with the city’s annual veterans’ parade. US Northern Command, which oversees US troops in North America, is responsible for the actual execution of the parade.

Earlier this year, the White House budget director told Congress that the cost to taxpayers could be between US$10 million and US$30 million. Those estimates were likely based on the cost of previous military parades, such as the one in the nation’s capital in 1991 celebrating the end of the first Gulf War, and factored in some additional increase for inflation.

Trump decided he wanted a military parade Washington after he attended France’s Bastille Day celebration in the centre of Paris last year. As the invited guest of French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump watched enthusiastically from a reviewing stand as the French military showcased its tanks and fighter jets, including many US-made planes, along the famed Champs-Elysees.

Several months later Trump praised the French parade, saying, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”

Agence France-Presse and Associated Press