WASHINGTON — Democratic lawmakers have introduced measures to stop President Donald Trump’s idea of a massive military parade to highlight Defense Department might, calling it a waste of time and resources.
“President Trump should understand that America doesn’t have to display its military might like North Korea or others who need to puff up their importance,” Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., said in a statement announcing his legislation Thursday. “The world understands our strength. It is demonstrated every day around the world by the brave men and women of our military.”
Earlier this week, White House and Pentagon officials confirmed reports that Trump has asked military leaders for the outline of large-scale parade later this year to showcase troops and military equipment. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said the goal is to create an event where the entire country “can come together to show support and honor our military.”
Defense officials have not released any planning details, and Sanders described the work so far as “in the early discussion phases.”
An informal Military Times poll launched Wednesday showed that readers opposed the idea by a wide margin.
As of Friday morning, more than 82,000 readers had responded. The majority, 88 percent, responded “No, It’s a waste of money and troops are too busy.”
The other 12 percent responded “Yes, it’s a great opportunity to show off U.S. military might.”
Citing the results of that poll, one reader, a retired service member identified only as “J.J.,” filed a petition opposing the parade on the White House’s “We the People” web page Feb. 9. If his petition — “Say No To President Trumps Military Parade!” — gets 100,000 signatures by the March 11 deadline, the White House will be expected to respond.
Trump critics have labeled the parade idea as nothing more than a vanity project. Cardin’s bill would prohibit any federal funds being used in a military parade “in the style of Russia, North Korea and China.”
Rep. Marc Veasey, D-Texas and a member of the House Armed Services Committee, introduced his similar PARADE Act — Preventing the Allocation of Resources for Absurd Defense Expenditures.
“An expensive political ploy whose sole aim is to boost Trump’s approval ratings is an insult to their service and detracts from resources needed to provide meaningful assistance to veterans and current service members,” he said in a statement.
Another measure from Rep. Brad Schneider, D-Ill., would block the parade if it negatively affects military readiness. Under the bill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis would have to certify that the diversion of personnel and equipment for the event would not hurt military operations or significantly affect the military budget.
Democratic veterans who serve in Congress have also loudly panned the idea of a military parade.
Republican lawmakers have also expressed reservations about the details, but have generally been more accepting of the idea.
On Wednesday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said he would not be opposed to the idea. And the Senate Armed Services Committee’s second-ranking Republican, Army veteran Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, quipped that he would march in the parade if asked.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.