Defense Secretary James Mattis said Wednesday that the Pentagon is preparing options for a possible military parade to send to President Donald Trump for consideration.
In a rare on-camera appearance at the White House briefing, Mattis told reporters that the President’s respect for the military was apparent in his request of a military parade.
“We’re all aware in this country of the President’s affection and respect for the military,” Mattis said. “We’ve been putting together some options. We’ll send them up to the White House for decision.”
“The President’s respect, his fondness for the military I think is reflected in him asking for these options,” he added.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders defended Trump’s desire to have a military parade when she was pressed by a reporter on whether that was the best way to show appreciation for the troops.
Sanders said the White House has not made a final decision and that they are “exploring different ways that he could highlight and show the pride we have in the military.”
She added that “it’s literally in a brainstorming session” and that the President did not give a directive that this is something that must happen.
Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta raised concerns Wednesday about the motivations behind Trump’s parade request.
“Any other president, you would assume that it would be to honor our men and women in uniform, and would be done in good taste,” Panetta said. “With this President, it’s just worrisome as to what exactly he has in mind.”
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel encouraged Trump to remember the philosophy of President Teddy Roosevelt.
“One of America’s strongest President’s, Teddy Roosevelt, had a simple national security policy … ‘Speak softly but carry a big stick’,” Hagel told CNN.
“America has been respected throughout the world not because of its power but because of its purpose. Respect and appreciation for the men and women who serve in the military is not because of their weapons but because of their selflessness. Remember TR!” he added.
And at least one veterans group is already worried.
“So far it’s going over in the military and veterans community like a lead balloon,” said Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, or IAVA.
“We did a quick snapshot on our Twitter account and it’s by no means scientific, but last I checked 88% of people did not support this idea,” he said.
Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told CNN on Wednesday that there is nothing wrong with having a parade to celebrate the military but said to have a parade to show military might is “kind of cheesy and a sign of weakness.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford confirmed Tuesday that initial planning for the parade is underway.
It is expected that the Army Military District of Washington, which oversees some military activities in the city, will be designated to coordinate parade planning, according to a senior defense official.
But the size and scope of any potential military parade is unknown at this time, making a cost estimate impossible, according to Pentagon spokesperson Lt. Col.