The acting defense secretary, joint chiefs chairman and other senior Pentagon leaders are slated to appear at the National Mall on Thursday for President Trump’s “Salute to America” Independence Day celebration in Washington.
There to witness the armored vehicle displays and fighter jet flyovers will be Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Navy Secretary Richard Spencer, Acting Air Force Secretary Matthew Donovan and Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Shultz, among others, will be in attendance, according to a Wednesday release from the Pentagon.
“In addition, the White House provided 5,000 tickets to the Department of Defense,” spokesman Tom Crosson said in a statement.
Defense Department leaders have not regularly attended presidents’ Fourth of July bashes in the past, which have traditionally been barbecues held at the White House for service members and their families.
Critics have accused the president of using the military as “props.”
Photos and video of a Bradley Fighting Vehicle staged near the Lincoln Memorial circulated on Wednesday morning, where the Trump plans to make his remarks during the celebration.
An Air Force One flyover is expect before he takes the stage, D.C.'s local ABC affiliate reported.
The event is set to kick off 6:30 p.m., per an Interior Department release. It will feature flyovers from the Blue Angels, Air Force One, Marine One, Navy F/A-18 Hornets and F-35 joint strike fighters, Coast Guard and Army helicopters, Marine Corps MV-22 Ospreys and an Air Force B-2, the Associated Press reported Tuesday.
Officials have declined to offer a cost estimate for the celebration, but the Washington Post reported Tuesday that the National Park Service would take $2.5 million of its entrance fee revenue, generally reserved for improvement projects, to cover the cost of the event.
Crosson confirmed to Military Times that each of the services will be paying for the transportation, flight hours and other expenses associated with their contributions.
Meghann Myers is the Pentagon bureau chief at Military Times. She covers operations, policy, personnel, leadership and other issues affecting service members.