President Donald Trump’s military parade will not come cheap.
Mick Mulvaney, the White House budget director, estimated Wednesday that the public display of America’s military might that Trump has called for could cost between $10 million and $30 million, and said the government would have to come up with a way to cover the cost.
Funding for the parade was not included in the White House’s 2019 budget request, which was released Monday, because it was a relatively new idea, Mulvaney said at a House Budget Committee hearing on Wednesday. He explained that the final cost would be determined by the size, scope and length of the parade.
“We will continue to work with you folks if we decide to continue forward with this initiative,” Mulvaney said. “Of course, you’d have to appropriate funds for it or we would have to find funds that we’ve already appropriated.”
The president has said that he wants to celebrate the armed forces with a spectacle akin to the Bastille Day parade in France.
The last such celebration in Washington occurred in the summer 1991 when the end of the 41-day Persian Gulf War was celebrated with a $12 million victory parade.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said earlier this month that he is working to develop plans to fulfill the president’s request.
“We’re all aware in this country of the president’s affection and respect for the military,” Mattis said. “We have been putting together some options, we will send them up to the White House for decision.”
Some Republicans have been reluctant to endorse a military parade. Last week, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana said “confidence is silent and insecurity is loud” and that the United States did not need to show off its power.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., pressed Mulvaney at the hearing on Wednesday about paying for a parade and suggested that holding one is reminiscent of displays of grandeur often seen in authoritarian countries.
But the parade’s potential price tag could be its biggest obstacle. Republicans are already facing criticism from conservative economists and others for adding to the federal deficit at a moment when the United States is already borrowing heavily and when the nation’s debt has already topped $20 trillion. The White House budget released on Monday projects deficits will grow $7 trillion over the next decade, in part because of the $1.5 trillion tax cut that Republicans passed last year.
The Trump administration has proposed cutting $3 trillion in nondefense discretionary spending, including by reducing funds for social welfare programs. This week, the Trump budget proposed cutting funding for the low-income food program known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, to pay for large increases in spending on the military. According to the left-leaning Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the $30 million that would be spent on the parade would provide annual food stamp benefits for about 20,000 people.
“This would be a giant waste of money all in the name of satisfying the president’s fragile ego,” said Andrew Bates, a spokesman for American Bridge, the Democratic political action committee. “Donald Trump has already made the deficit skyrocket with massive tax cuts for the richest Americans and corporations; there’s no reason to add nearly $30 million to that number.”