Trump's military parade still happening despite slow planning

WASHINGTON — Four months after President Donald Trump directed the Defense Department to organize a military parade, planning is just beginning but no budget has been assigned yet.

Pentagon officials told NBC News that they will be able to pull off the extravaganza, but the lack of momentum is notable — and possibly indicative of low enthusiasm for the event outside the Oval Office.

"There is only one person who wants this parade," a senior U.S. official said, referring to Trump.

Even some White House officials are uninterested in planning the parade, and are dragging their feet, according to a senior administration official.

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Military parades around the world
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Military parades around the world
Newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump (in red tie), first lady Melania (L), Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen (R) preside over a military parade during Trump's swearing ceremony in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds fly over the Arc de Triomphe du Carrousel during the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Four Mirage 2000C and one Alpha jet flight over Paris, France, on their way to participate in the Bastille Day military parade, July 14 2016. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Russian servicemen march during the Victory Day parade, marking the 71st anniversary of the victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, at Red Square in Moscow, Russia, May 9, 2016. REUTERS/Grigory Dukor TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
A F-16 fighter jet from the Royal Singapore Air Force (RSAF) Black Knight aerobatics team leaves a smoke trail over the Marina waterfront during National Day Parade celebrations in Singapore August 9, 2008. REUTERS/Karishma Singh (SINGAPORE)
Indian police "Daredevils" motorcycle riders perform during the Republic Day celebration in Jammu, January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Mukesh Gupta
Soldiers march during a military parade to celebrate the 206th anniversary of Venezuela's independence in Caracas, Venezuela, July 5, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Indian Army combat vehicles are displayed during the Republic Day parade in New Delhi, India January 26, 2018. REUTERS/Adnan Abidi
North Korean soldiers march during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of the country's founding father Kim Il Sung in Pyongyang, North Korea, April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Members of the Honour Guard and the central military band of the Mongolian armed forces perform during the International Military Music Festival "Spasskaya Tower" media preview in Red Square in Moscow, Russia, August 26, 2016. REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Troops wave Mexico's flags during a military parade celebrating Independence Day at Zocalo Square in downtown Mexico City, Mexico, September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Henry Romero TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Missiles are driven past the stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un and other high ranking officials during a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Military vehicles carry DF-10 ship-launched cruise missiles as they travel past Tiananmen Gate during a military parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in Beijing Thursday Sept. 3, 2015. REUTERS/Andy Wong/Pool
Singapore's President Tony Tan (C) watches as tanks roll past during Singapore's Golden Jubilee parade at Padang near the central business district August 9, 2015. Singapore marks 50 years of independence on Sunday. An island of 5.5 million people that sits just north of the equator, what was a post-colonial backwater at independence from Malaysia in 1965 is now a global business hub whose economic and social model is the envy of nations around the world. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Servicemen march during a military parade marking Ukraine's Independence Day in Kiev, Ukraine August 24, 2017. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich
North Korean leader Kim Jong Un waves to people attending a military parade marking the 105th birth anniversary of country's founding father Kim Il Sung, in Pyongyang April 15, 2017. Towards the end of every parade, it is tradition for the North Korean leader to come to the edge of the balcony from where he watches the proceedings and wave to foreign and local dignitaries sitting on either side of the building. The photographers and cameramen file photos to the Korean Central News Agency, North Korea?s official state news outlet. The photographer on the far right has his hair styled in a similar way to Kim Jong Un, a common refrain amongst his bodyguards, aides and the photographers which surround him. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj SEARCH "PARADE WID" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Tanks pass in front of the presidential tribune during the traditional Bastille day military parade on the Champs-Elysees in Paris, France, July 14, 2017. REUTERS/Yves Herman TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Moscow - Russia - 09/05/2017 - Russian President Vladimir Putin, Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu and Russian ground forces commander Colonel-General Oleg Salyukov walks along Red Square after the Victory Day military parade marking the World War II anniversary, in Moscow. REUTERS/Yuri Kochetkov/Pool
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Trump got the idea for the parade while viewing France's Bastille Day Parade last summer. Naturally, he wanted it to be really big-league.

"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.

But in the last week or so, the event has gotten some attention. Officials have now recommended the route begin at the Capitol, pass the White House and end at the National Mall, and the date has moved up a day from Nov. 11 to Nov. 10. A Joint Chiefs of Staff team is drafting a planning order for U.S. Northern Command, which will then dig into the specifics.

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President Trump with members of the military
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President Trump with members of the military
U.S. President Donald Trump is saluted by a military official as he departs from the capitol for the inaugural parade after his swearing in at the Capitol in Washington, U.S., January 20, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President-elect Donald Trump gestures to the crowd as he stands with U.S. Army personnel as he watches the Army vs Navy college football game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, December 10, 2016. REUTERS/Mike Segar
U.S. President Donald Trump awards the Medal of Honor to James McCloughan, who served in the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War, during a ceremony at the White House in Washington, U.S. July 31, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a lunch with members of the U.S. military during a visit at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump poses for a photo with Army Sgt First Class Alvaro Barrientos, his wife Tammy and First Lady Melania Trump (R) after awarding him a Purple Heart at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., April 22, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a lunch with members of the U.S. military during a visit at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 20: U.S. President Donald Trump salutes a U.S. Marine before boarding Marine One while departing from the White House, on March 20, 2017 in Washington, DC. President Trump is traveling to Louisville Kentucky to speak at a Make America Great Rally. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump shakes hands with military personnel as he arrives at Harrisburg international airport, before attending a rally marking his first 100 days in office in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. April 29, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump attends a lunch with members of the U.S. military during a visit at the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and Special Operations Command (SOCOM) headquarters in Tampa, Florida, U.S., February 6, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria
U.S. President Donald Trump gestures as he speaks to U.S. military personnel at Naval Air Station Sigonella following the G7 Summit, in Sigonella, Italy, May 27, 2017. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi
U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks to military personnel and families at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, U.S., September 15, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
U.S. President Donald Trump greets members of the U.S. military as he prepares to board Air Force One, to survey hurricane damage, at Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico, October 3, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
U.S. President Donald Trump returns a salute as he steps from Marine One to board Air Force One in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S., on his way back to Washington August 20, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque
U.S. President Donald Trump salutes as he arrives at Newark International airport in Newark, NJ U.S., to spend a weekend at Trump National Golf Club in Bedminister, New Jersey, June 9, 2017. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
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That includes bringing in the U.S. Military District of Washington — an Army command that executes state funerals for former presidents, inaugurations and other major events — to be the lead. The command is typically reimbursed by the Pentagon, but there's no pot of money earmarked for the military parade right now.

Defense can pay for some things out of its training budget by assigning a pilot who needs flight hours to a fly-by. Using vehicles from nearby bases and troops stationed in the capital region doesn't come with a high pricetag.

But there are other parade costs that the Pentagon isn't responsible for — from Secret Service and police overtime to renting, constructing and taking down risers, stands and barriers — and there's no White House budget for the event either.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council said: "The Department of Defense will provide options to the White House for a decision."

Some Washington lawmakers have raised concerns about the possible 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 earlier this year.

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