“The Department of Defense supported the ‘Salute to America’ with demonstrations by aircraft, static displays of equipment and ceremonial unit participation,” the Pentagon’s Comptroller’s Office said in a statement, according to ABC News. “Additional funding was used for the transportation of static displays and equipment.”
The amount cited by the Pentagon does not, however, reflect the full cost of the event, which took place on the National Mall and was intended to honor America’s military.
The military flyovers during the event, for instance, were not included in the Pentagon spending, but were absorbed in the budgets of the individual military services that took part, ABC noted.
The flyovers alone had been expected to cost more than $500,000, according to NPR, citing Defense Department flight-hour estimates.
The Washington Post reported last week that almost $2.5 million had been diverted from the National Park Service’s entrance and recreation fees to help foot the bill for the event. The “diverted park fees represent just a fraction of the extra costs the government faces as a result of the event,” the Post wrote.
Trump, under scrutiny for using taxpayer dollars to fund his military extravaganza, insisted last week that “the cost of our great Salute to America ... will be very little compared to what it is worth.”
A group of Democratic senators has since requested that the Government Accountability Office investigate the costs of the event.
“Congress did not specifically provide funds to cover the costs of the president’s expanded Fourth of July events, and we are very concerned by the impacts and the precedent of diverting limited federal resources ... to organize and execute unbudgeted events,” wrote Sens. Tom Udall (N.M.), Patrick Leahy (Vt.) and Chris Van Hollen (Md.) in a Friday letter to the GAO’s comptroller general.
The Pentagon made an apparent effort to defend its spending on the military demonstration in a statement this week, noting that it had spent a similar amount ― or even more ― on other celebratory events. San Francisco Fleet Week had cost the department $1.8 million in 2017, and Los Angeles Fleet Week cost it $1.6 million, the department noted.
Trump said Monday that he intends to host the “Salute to America” event again next year.
“Based on its tremendous success, we’re just making the decision ― and I can think we can say we’ve made the decision ― to do it again next year, and, maybe we can say, for the foreseeable future,” he told reporters, per Reuters.