WASHINGTON — Not only are House Republicans poised to approve President Donald Trump’s plans for a national military parade, they may help send more planes and tanks to take part in the event.
A provision to be included in the upcoming House Armed Services Committee debate of the annual defense authorization bill would authorize a parade in the nation’s capital to show “appreciation and admiration for our men and women in uniform.”
In a statement released Friday, committee chairman Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the event could help better highlight the sacrifices of troops and their families. He also emphasized the importance of not letting partisan disagreements distract from an opportunity to honor America’s veterans.
“For too long, our men and women in uniform have been victims of political discord,” he said. “Honoring those who served in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan should not be a political matter. Veterans of those conflicts did not let politics stand in the way of their service to the country.”
Pentagon planners have been discussing a parade for months, as a way to honor both veterans and current servicemembers. Trump has said he feels such a public display is needed to properly thank the armed forces, but critics have accused him of using the idea to distract from other pressing priorities.
Veterans Affairs officials have not been involved planning so far, and Pentagon officials want to connect the event with a local veterans parade that doesn't exist.
In March, defense officials released a planning memo for the event that promised a national celebration highlighting “the contributions of our veterans throughout the history of the U.S. military … with an emphasis on the price of freedom.”
The Joint Chiefs of Staff and U.S. Northern Command officials will serve as the primary planners for the event.
Officials also said they hope to integrate the event with “the annual D.C. Veteran’s Day Parade,” although no such event currently exists.
It’s unclear if the Defense Department and White House need congressional approval to move ahead with a national military celebration, but lawmakers’ backing could help calm any controversy surrounding the idea.
Still, the issue is likely to spark heated discussion during the armed services committee’s day-long authorization bill debate next Wednesday. Multiple congressional Democrats have voiced opposition to the idea, and at least three have offered legislation to block the idea.
Thornberry’s proposal would prohibit using any operational units or equipment in the parade “if the Secretary of Defense believes such use will hamper readiness.”
However, it leaves open the possibility of using any ceremonial unit, “small arms and munitions,” motorized vehicles or aviation platforms that don’t interfere with current operations, according to committee Democrats.
Defense officials have already said they are looking to include veterans and re-enactors from every American conflict since the Revolutionary War in the event, as well as aircraft and wheeled vehicles (but “no tanks,” according to the Pentagon memo).