Trump’s ‘Salute to America’ bankrupted DC security fund, mayor says in letter to president

July 10, 2019

President Donald Trump, first lady Melania Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and Karen Pence and others stand as the US Army Band performs and the US Navy Blue Angels flyover at the end of an Independence Day celebration in front of the Lincoln Memorial, Thursday, July 4, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

President Donald Trump’s “Salute to America” on the National Mall this past Fourth of July has D.C.’s mayor seeing red — especially when it comes to the District’s funds.

In a Tuesday letter to Trump, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said the president’s Independence Day display and protests by others have left the city’s security fund bankrupt and that it will be running at a deficit of more than $6 million by the end of September.

She attributes the Emergency Planning and Security Fund (EPSF) numbers to estimates by the District’s Homeland Security and Emergency Management Agency.

The EPSF covers public safety at events, anti-terror efforts and support for the Secret Service.

And, Bowser said Washington still hasn’t been reimbursed for Trump’s 2017 inauguration.


Read Bowser’s letter to Trump (PDF)


“These overages can be attributed to declining reserves, increased demand for heightened security, and a one-time draw down of $7.3 million to cover security costs associated with the 2017 presidential inauguration,” she wrote.

The impact to the city’s coffers are compounded by Congress only allocating approximately $13 million to the EPSF annually, according to the mayor.

“The accrued amount for the July Fourth holiday totals approximately $1.7 million. It is critical that the EPSF is fully reimbursed for these funds to ensure the District can uphold proper security and support during the remainder of the fiscal year without incurring a deficit for federal activities,” she added.

“As we continue to gather estimates for the next inauguration, we ask for your help with ensuring the residents of the District of Columbia are not asked to cover millions of dollars of federal expenses and are able to maintain our high standards of protection for federal events.”

Reached for comment, the White House said: “President Trump led our Nation in a great Salute to America and recognized the brave sacrifice our service men and women have made throughout history. We have received the letter and will respond in a timely manner.”

The president’s July Fourth festivities have drawn scrutiny from D.C. leaders and Democrats on Capitol Hill.

Senators are seeking to probe the cost of the event, which included military flyovers and tanks on the National Mall.

The lawmakers, who include Sen. Chris Van Hollen, D-Md., are asking the Government Accountability Office to determine whether the event broke any laws that prohibit taxpayer money from being diverted for political purposes.

The Washington Post reported that close to $2.5 million was diverted from National Park Service, which normally uses the money from entrance and recreation fees to make improvements to U.S. parks.

WTOP has submitted a Freedom of Information Act request with the National Park Service, via the Interior Department, to see a cost breakdown for the event.

A Defense Department spokesperson confirmed that the Pentagon spent $1.2 million on the “Salute to America” celebration, which does not factor in the cost of flyovers, since the flyovers are being listed as training flights to “facilitate flying hours, which are imperative to military readiness.”

They also provided a list of the aircraft, ground vehicles and ceremonial units that participated, as well as background from previous events:

  • Four AH-64E Apache Guardian helicopters from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, Fort Campbell, Kentucky
  • Two MV-22 Ospreys aircraft and one VH-92 helicopter (commonly referred to as the new Marine One) from Marine Helicopter Squadron One, Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia
  • Two F-35C Lightning II aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 147, Naval Air Station Lemoore, California
  • Two F/A-18 Hornet aircraft from Strike Fighter Squadron 37, Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia
  • Six F/A-18 Hornet aircraft from the United States Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron (Blue Angels) from Naval Air Station Pensacola, Pensacola, Florida
  • One VC-25 aircraft ( commonly referred to as Air Force One) from the Presidential Airlift Group, Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
  • One B-2 Spirit aircraft from the 509th Bomb Wing, Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri
  • Two F-22 Raptor aircraft from the 1st Fighter Wing, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia
  • One MH-60J/T Jayhawk helicopter, one MH-65 Dolphin helicopter and one HC-144 Ocean Sentry aircraft from the Coast Guard Atlantic Sector, U.S. Coast Guard Station Annapolis, Maryland
  • Two M1A2 Abrams Main Battle Tanks and two M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles from the 3rct Infantry Division, Fort Stewart, Georgia

The following ceremonial units participated in the event:

  • United States Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard), Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall, Virginia
  • United States Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.
  • Free Country, United States Marine Corps Band, Marine Barracks, Washington, D.C.

For comparison, below are examples of similar demonstrations by military services:

Army (2018 numbers): 44 flyovers

Marine Corps (2018 numbers): 22 flyovers

Navy (2017 Fleet Week numbers/FY19 aerial numbers):

  • San Francisco Fleet Week -$1.8M
  • Los Angeles Fleet Week -$1.6M
  • New York Fleet Week-$1.3M (port costs only, w/ fuel -$2.5M)
  • Seattle Fleet Week- -$1 M
  • Portland Fleet Week- -$1 M
  • 47 flyovers
  • Blue Angels estimated cost -$36M

Air Force (2018 numbers):

  • 660 flyovers
  • 130 Airshow support ( static, aerial demonstrations, flyovers)
  • Thunderbirds estimated cost -$35M

The total cost of “A Salute to America” remains unknown, but the massive fireworks display was buttressed by a $750,000 pyrotechnics donation.

The White House has repeatedly said the event was nonpartisan, and Trump has downplayed its costs.

The president announced at the White House on July 8 that he plans to hold the event again next July.

Several D.C.-area lawmakers — all Democrats — raised concerns about the president’s event before it took place. Among them were D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton and Rep. Don Beyer, D-Va., who said the holiday should be “about U.S. independence, not Trump’s ego.”

But many of the thousands of people who gathered on the National Mall for Trump’s address and the following fireworks said they enjoyed the event and appreciated the expanded celebration.

WTOP’s Mitchell Miller contributed to this report.

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