A military parade ordered by US President Donald Trump for later this year has been postponed until at least 2019, a defense official said Thursday, following reports the cost had soared to over $90 million.
The announcement was seen as a setback for the president, who had ordered the show of air power after being impressed by France’s Bastille Day parade last year.
The idea had been popular among many Americans but drew scorn from critics, who said it would be a waste of money and was akin to events organized by authoritarian regimes.
“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,” Pentagon spokesman Colonel Rob Manning said in a statement.
“We originally targeted November 10, 2018 for this event but have now agreed to explore opportunities in 2019,” he added.
When the White House in February announced the commander-in-chief’s desire to hold the parade in Washington, the budget director said it would cost between $10 million and $30 million.
But a US official told AFP earlier Thursday the planning estimate had now gone as high as $92 million, though no final figure has been reached.
The request for the event came after Trump’s visit to France in July 2017, where he was hosted with great fanfare by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Sitting on the Champs-Elysees during the Bastille Day parade, the American president had marveled at the Republican Guard on horseback and jets flying overhead.
He had initially hinted at plans to transform America’s Independence Day celebrations — usually associated with fireworks and barbecues — on July 4 into a vast military parade.
“To a large extent, because of what I witnessed we may do something like that on July Fourth in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue,” he said in September 2017.
– Destitute veterans –
Even before becoming president, aides reported that Trump had considered a military parade to mark his inauguration — although that idea was eventually scrapped.
Trump has also embraced military backdrop for several speeches and presidential visits. However, he received deferments from carrying out military service of his own during the Vietnam War.
US media were quick to highlight how the ballooning costs of the proposed parade stood in contrast to his concern about the expense of conducting joint military exercises with South Korea.
“We will be stopping the war games, which will save us a tremendous amount of money,” Trump said in June after meeting North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.
It later emerged that the drills cost about $14 million, a fraction of the price of a military parade.
Others suggested the money could be better spent improving the lives of destitute veterans.
“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,” said the American Legion’s national commander Denise Rohan.
The United States normally holds military parades to mark the end of a conflict, such as in 1991 when president George HW Bush held a National Victory Parade in Washington to celebrate the end of the first Gulf War.