President Donald Trump put the kibosh on a military parade and fly-bys down Pennsylvania Avenue on Veterans Day before he got an official cost estimate from the military, the Pentagon said Monday.
Early estimates for the planned parade put the expected cost at around $12 million, but the Associated Press reported last week that new calculations put the total at $92 million, more than six times the original figure. Within a day, Trump announced the event was off, citing "ridiculously high" prices demanded by local Washington, D.C. politicians to hold the parade Nov. 10 or 11.
However, a Pentagon spokesman told reporters Monday that the Defense Department had never supplied Trump with an official estimate of total parade costs.
"Any figure that was cited was predecisional," Army Col. Rob Manning said. "The planning committee for the parade had not reached a point where they had briefed the senior leadership in the department."
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who scoffed at reports of a $92 million price tag when asked about the matter during a trip to Colombia, was among those who had not been briefed, Manning said.
In addition, he said, "the president was not briefed by any member of the Department of Defense on any costs associated with the parade."
In the case of a "national special security event," such as a military parade in Washington, D.C., the planning would be done by the Joint Force Headquarters for the Capital Region, which reports to U.S. Northern Command, Manning said.
The Joint Force Headquarters had not yet arrived at a cost estimate, and "I cannot tell you why" the president canceled the parade, Manning said. "For anything else beyond that, as far as the president's thought process, I have to refer you to the White House."
On Aug. 17, Trump said in a series of tweets that he was canceling the parade intended as a tribute to the military because of the ballooning costs fueled by the demands of Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser to be reimbursed for providing fire and police protection, as well as traffic and crowd control.
Bowser had earlier complained that tanks in the parade would tear up the streets, and the Pentagon had agreed that only wheeled vehicles would participate.
"The local politicians who run Washington, D.C. (poorly) know a windfall when they see it," Trump said in a tweet.
Instead of watching a parade on Pennsylvania Avenue on Nov. 11, Trump said he would go to Paris to see the parade down the Avenue des Champs-Élysées to mark the centennial of the end of World War I.
Mick Mulvaney, director of the White House Office of Management and Budget, said Sunday that other factors were at play in canceling the parade besides the costs, and suggested that Bowser was one of the factors.
"If the parade had been canceled purely for fiscal reasons, I imagine I would have been in the room when that decision was made, and I wasn't," Mulvaney said on "Fox News Sunday."
"I mean, I like the mayor. She seems like a nice lady," Mulvaney said. "But face it, this is a city that voted probably, I don't know, 70, 80 percent against the president."
For her part, Bowser said she was glad to see the cancellation of a parade that had little support in the District and also may not have generated much enthusiasm within the military itself.
"Yup, I'm Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington DC, the local politician who finally got thru to the reality star in the White House with the realities [$21.6M] of parades/events/demonstrations in Trump America (sad)," she said in a defiant tweet.
In his tweets canceling the parade, Trump also said he was planning to go to an event at an unspecified later date honoring the military at Joint Base Andrews, just outside the District in Maryland.
Pentagon officials said the only upcoming event they knew of at Andrews was an air show scheduled for May 10-12 next year.
Manning said the Pentagon was also looking at "opportunities" to hold a parade sometime next year.
-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.