Does the United States have the greatest military in the world? The fact that we spend over $600 billion on defense annually — more than the defense budgets of China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, India, France, United Kingdom, and Japan combined — would seem to suggest that we do, but Americans will have to wait at least another year to see the proof with their own eyes. On Thursday night, the Pentagon announced that the military parade President Trump ordered has been postponed from days after the midterm elections to some indefinite point in 2019.
“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,” said Colonel Rob Manning, a Pentagon spokesperson. “We originally targeted November 10, 2018, for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”
This announcement came hours after CNBC reported that the event could cost $92 million, up from the original estimate of $12 million. An anonymous U.S. defense official said $50 million would come from the Pentagon and $42 million would come from interagency partners like the Department of Homeland Security.
Trump said he told the military to start planning the event after he watched the Bastille Day parade in Paris last summer with French president Emmanuel Macron. When he met Macron again months later at the United Nations, he told him, “It was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” adding, “We’re going to have to try and top it.”
But Trump’s ambitious plans kept getting scaled back. He initially suggested a Fourth of July parade, but in March a memo from the Office of the Secretary of Defense suggested it would be integrated with the existing D.C. Veterans Day parade. The event would focus “on the contributions of our 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” — not just awesome military gear. In fact, there would be no tanks, only wheeled vehicles, due to concerns over damaging the streets (and possibly, because the Pentagon wanted to scale back the authoritarian theme).
The parade was widely criticized as a waste of money, even when it was estimated to cost $12 million. Earlier this year, Trump bragged about saving costs by suspending joint military exercises with South Korea, which cost just $14 million.
After the new estimate came out on Thursday, the American Legion responded by saying, basically, thanks but no thanks.
“The American Legion appreciates that our President wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” said Denise Rohan, national commander of the veterans’ group. “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.”
You win this round, Macron.