WASHINGTON — The multimillion-dollar military parade through the nation’s capital requested by President Donald Trump has been delayed until 2019, a Defense Department spokesman said Thursday.
“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 Col. Rob Manning. “We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”
Earlier Thursday, a defense official told NBC News that the upper estimate of the cost of the parade was $92 million, a figure first reported by CNBC.
The estimate had risen substantially since February, when White House budget director Mick Mulvaney told Congress the price could be $10 million to $30 million.
The cost was initially reported as $12 million, and was based on the cost of the victory parade held in the capital after the 1991 Gulf War, said the official. The Washington Post estimated the cost of the 1991 victory parade as $8 million.
The defense official told NBC News that the internal estimate of the cost of the parade rose to $25 million after adjusting for more than 25 years of inflation. But that estimate did not take into account expenses borne by other federal agencies and some nonmilitary line items.
The $92 million figure is the current uppermost estimate, said the official, and includes security, transportation and other expenses.
“The American Legion appreciates that our president wants to show in a dramatic fashion our nation’s support for our troops,” American Legion National Cmdr Denise Rohan said in a statement posted to Twitter. “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.”
As NBC News first reported, serious planning for the parade began in June, four months after Trump directed the Defense Department to organize it.
“There is only one person who wants this parade,” said a senior U.S. official at the time, referring to Trump.
Trump got the idea for the parade while viewing France’s Bastille Day Parade in July 2017.
“We’re going to have to try to top it,” he later told French President Emmanuel Macron.
By January, Trump was floating the idea with military leaders and in late February, he made it official with a memo to Defense Secretary James Mattis.
A March memo laid out the skeleton of a plan: a parade from the White House to the Capitol to include only wheeled vehicles (because tanks could damage the streets), capped by a big display of air power and vintage aircraft, with themes including veterans, women in the military and medal of honor recipients.
After that, three months went by with no major planning. With so many more pressing issues, the parade just was not a high priority for the military, a senior defense official said.
Officials recommended that the route begin at the Capitol, pass the White House and end at the National Mall, and the date was moved up a day to Nov. 10, from Nov. 11.
Some Washington lawmakers have raised concerns about the cost of a parade, with Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., calling it a “fantastic waste of money to amuse the president.” And some analysts have said that without an important military victory to justify the parade, it smacked of North Korean-style posturing.
“There’s no reason to do it aside from bolstering Trump’s ego,” Thomas E. Ricks, a military historian and veteran national security reporter, told NBC News this year.