Department of Defense (DoD) officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Post on February 6 that they were planning a military parade in Washington D.C. on President Donald Trump’s orders. The U.S. has not held a military parade since victorious forces returned from the First Gulf War in June 1991. Trump reportedly asked the planners to model the parade on France’s annual Bastille Day celebration.
Editorial director at France’s Le Monde newspaper Sylvie Kauffmann said, “France’s Bastille Day military parade is an old tradition, going back to 1880. Its longevity and popularity have many historical reasons. Probably different from Trump’s motivations.” Without the justification of longheld tradition, the plan for a military parade in Washington D.C. is frivolous and sends mixed signals about the Trump administration’s commitment to peaceful and diplomatic solutions to global problems.
Secretary of Defense James Mattis told Congress on February 6 that its inability to create a long-term budget plan creates uncertainty in military planning and weakens national security, according to Voice of America. While uncertainty may adversely affect national defense strategy, Mattis has little to complain about. It seems likely that Congress will allocate the DoD most or all of the $716 billion requested by Trump for 2019. This would represent a further increase from Trump’s abortive first budget request in May 2017, which asked for a $469 billion defense spending boost over ten years, according to the New York Times. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said that Trump’s most recent proposal would increase the federal debt to 150 percent of GDP by 2047 because cuts to other government services are insufficient to pay for new spending, reported DefenseNews.
The United States spends more on defense than China, Saudi Arabia, Russia, India, the United Kingdom, Japan, and France combined. This defense expenditure is widely known for its inefficiency. In 2016, DoD officials tried to bury an internal study that found over $125 billion of bureaucratic waste over five years, according to the Washington Post.
The procurement process run by the DoD for new technologies and equipment is broken. Many Congressional rules complicate DoD procurement spending, says Federal News Radio. In 2014, Congress authorized $120 million in spending on Abrams tanks despite top military leaders’ protests that they did not want more tanks. Politics has become an insidious part of U.S. defense spending policy. The particular case of the Abrams tank can be explained by two points: elected officials’ desire to look strong on military matters and the tank’s dispersed manufacturing operations, which create jobs in most Congressional constituencies. A new report also says that some offices within the DoD are redundant but cannot be closed because they are established by statute.
Trump’s proposed military parade is, therefore, nothing more than the continuation of a trend in American politics. Politicians, out of a desire to appear strong and show unwavering support for the military, have thrown more money at the DoD continuously, disregarding its wasteful and inefficient use of resources. The military parade that Trump is planning is an attempt to project strength in the same way that Pyongyang and Moscow have flaunted their countries’ military power. It represents the bloated military-industrial-Congressional complex just as much as it represents Trump’s own Napoleon complex. Perhaps even worse, unlike the Bastille Day parade—which is a symbol for the world of French nationhood—Trump’s military parade is a symbol for the world of his administration’s commitment to military solutions and discounting of diplomatic ones.