WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump is exalted vision of large tanks, vintage planes and modern fighter jets through the streets of Washington in a show of patriotic force to crack Friday under the weight of the logistics, including a $92 million estimated price tag.
It will be cheaper next year, as Trump claims? The government budget crunchers “smoking something” as the Pentagon chief suggested? Corrupt local officials are to blame as Trump alleged?
A look at how Trump’s big idea turned into a big nothing:
MY PARADE IS BIGGER THAN THE PARADE?
Trump came up with the idea of a military parade during a trip to France in July of last year. At the invitation of the French President, Emmanuel Macron, Trump saw excited by an assessment of the state of the French military on display are tanks and fighter jets, including a lot of AMERICAN planes, along the famous Champs-Elysees.
Washington already has a lot of parades, including some with military participation held on Memorial Day and the 4th of July. There was even a 1991 victory parade after the Gulf War, complete with 8,000 marching troops, a F-117 Stealth Fighter, some tanks, and a Patriot Missile Launcher.
But even that large display of the military hardware of the Gulf War do not seem to be what Trump had in mind. He noted that France represented the uniforms and equipment of the various wars and that the Bastille Day parade lasted a full two hours. Trump said he saw a similar military extravaganza next July 4 down Washington’s famed Pennsylvania Avenue, which connects to the White House, Capitol Hill.
In comparison with France is the parade, ” we should try to get to the top,” he said.
TANKS WERE THE FIRST TO GO
By the following February, Trump ordered the Pentagon to begin planning. Critics compared the idea to the nature of the muscular military parades common in authoritarian countries like China and North Korea.
“That’s not our style … You know how powerful you are, you don’t have to pretend,” said the retired air force Gen. Michael Hayden on CNN on Friday, reiterating a common complaint of ex-military officials since Trump first floated the idea.
By the time planning was underway at the Pentagon, one thing became clear: the tanks had to go.
Old US Army tanks weigh more than 60 tons. In 1991, parade, the military put rubber covers on the tank treads, but there were still reports of tread marks and damage to the streets of the city. There was also the cost involved in the shipment of the mammoth vehicles.
The Pentagon said in a planning memo: “Wheeled vehicles only, no tanks — consideration must be given to minimizing damage to the local infrastructure.”
THE PRICE IS INCREASED, THE DATE SLIPPED
Also in February, Trump’s budget director Mick Mulvaney put the parade costs between $10 million and $30 million. Those were preliminary figures, he said, and would depend on how long the parade lasts.
The date was another problem. According to a report in The Washington Post, the Pentagon wanted to keep such a parade on Veterans Day in November. That way it would coincide with the 100th anniversary of the victorious end of the first world War, instead of being tied to the political celebration of the country’s Independence Day.
Thursday, it became clear that a $30 million parade in November was not going to happen.
The officials of the V. S. told The Associated Press that the cost could rise to € 92 million, with approximately $50 million to cover military planes, equipment, personnel and other support. The rest would cover costs by other governments and largely involve expenses. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss early planning estimates that have not yet been finalised or released in the public.
Later that day, a spokesman of the Pentagon said that the army and the White House “have now agreed to have the capability in 2019.”
‘NOW WE CAN BUY SOME MORE FIGHTER JETS!’
Secretary of defense Jim Mattis questioned the $92 million figure on Thursday, told the AP that whoever leaked the image to the press “probably smoking something.”
Then he took a page from Trump’s playbook in criticizing the reporters: “Whoever wrote it needs to get better sources. I will leave it at that.”
But on Friday, Trump acknowledged that the cost would be exorbitant. In a tweet, he blamed the local politicians and accused them of price gouging, although many of the quotation probably was originated from the transport of expensive military equipment and logistics, including the security.
“When you are asked to give us a price for keeping a great festive military parade, they wanted a number so ridiculously high that I canceled,” the president tweeted.
“Maybe we will do something next year in D. C. when the cost comes WAY DOWN,” he later added. “Now we can buy some more fighter jets!”
The cost of one fighter jet can vary greatly, but some models cost about the same as the $92 million estimate.
And in Washington, the estimated cost of the rarely diminish with time.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns and Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.