Donald Trump’s plans for an extravagant Veterans Day military parade were put on ice Thursday, after costings for the event were put at $80 million more than initially estimated.
Defense Department spokesman Col. Rob Manning announced that the event would not be held on November 10 as planned, and that the military and the White House had “agreed to explore opportunities in 2019.”
U.S. officials had earlier told CNBC that the parade through Washington, D.C., originally intended to mark the centenary of the end of World War I on November 11, would cost about $92 million, according to estimates. About half would cover security, with the rest going to expenses such as transportation of equipment to the event, aircraft, and temporary duty for troops.
Earlier this year, a White House official told Congress that the cost would be between $10 million and $30 million, while a Defense Department estimate last month put it at $12 million.
Trump blamed local politicians in Washington Friday for the event's cancellation, saying they "know a windfall when they see it" and had "wanted a number so ridiculously high that I cancelled it." "Never let someone hold you up!" he tweeted.
He said he would instead attend a November 11 parade in Paris to commemorate the end of the war, and would consider another event in D.C. in 2019 if the cost came down.
Trump had said he wanted the patriotic parade, which was supposed to feature members of all five U.S. armed services and flyovers by jets, after being impressed by France’s Bastille Day march during a visit to Paris last year. “We’re going to have to try and top it,” he later said.
But the proposal met a cool response, with many labeling it a waste of money that could better be used directly helping veterans.
“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,” Commander Denise Rohan of the American Legion, a group representing veterans, said Thursday.
Democratic Sen. Jim McGovern said in February that the parade was an absurd waste of money, and an example of Trump acting “more like dictator than president.”
Trump also cancelled scheduled joint military exercises with South Korea in June on the rationale that it would “save a fortune.”
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said later Thursday that he hadn’t seen any estimate of the costs for the parade, but cast doubt on the $92 million figure.
“I haven't received an estimate of $10 million or $92 million," Mattis told reporters, according to a pool report. "Whoever told you that is probably smoking something that's legal in my state but not in most states, OK?"
The U.S. hasn’t seen a major military parade in Washington since 1991, to mark the end of Operation Desert Storm. The $8 million cost of that parade was paid for through $5 million in private donations, with the rest coming from government.
Cover image: Donald Trump and his wife, Melania Trump, attend the traditional Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees on July 14, 2017 in Paris France. (Chesnot/Getty Images)