Send in the tanks? President Trump said Monday that “brand-new Abrams tanks” and “brand-new Sherman tanks” will be on display in Washington during Thursday’s controversial Fourth of July celebration.
Trump wanted a big military parade on Veteran’s Day in 2017, after he was impressed by France’s Bastille Day celebration. But the plan for that year was eventually scuttled after public pushback from the city and private concerns at the Pentagon, which balked at parading military assets through the streets of the nation’s capital—images that are more typically associated with authoritarian countries like China and North Korea.
The city is already pushing back, in part by citing damage to city infrastructure that wheeling tanks through the city is expected to cause. “We have said it before, and we’ll say it again: Tanks, but no tanks,” the city council said in a tweet, adding that the Department of Defense “agrees.”
“You’ve got to be pretty careful with the tanks because the roads have a tendency not to like to carry heavy tanks,” Trump told reporters on Monday. “So we have to put them in certain areas.” He did not specify where those areas would be.
There are also concerns about politicizing the military as the 2020 election looms. Critics say that Trump uses the troops for props. He has frequently made overtly political remarks to U.S. service members and at the Pentagon, using speech that past presidents have reserved for official campaign settings. Trump is set to become the first president of either party to participate in the city’s Fourth of July celebration in decades. He will give a speech from the steps of the Lincoln memorial.
So what kind of tanks and planes? “The M1 Abrams tank was used during the Persian Gulf war of 1991 and is still currently in use by the military. The M4 Sherman was used by the United States during World War II and the Korean War, and is no longer in active service,” the New York Times reports. The celebration, which was first reported by the Washington Post, is also expected to include a flyover by Air Force One and the Navy’s Blue Angels jets.
Still, “Sense I have after talking to defense officials today is that the Pentagon’s involvement in Trump’s newly expanded 4th of July celebration is *still* evolving,” reports the Post’s Dan Lamothe. “Logistics still appear to be under discussion, and the specifics of what might fly is, too.”
At least two Abrams tanks and two Bradley fighter vehicles arrived in Washington via rail on Monday evening. AP photographer Patrick Semansky got photos of them, here. Some of the vehicles have the markings of the Army’s 3rd Infantry Division, 64th Armor Regiment, which is based at Fort Stewart, Georgia.
FWIW, the U.S. military used the Sherman tank in World War II and the Korean War. It’s been retired for more than six decades. (Or, as Task and Purpose’s inimitable Jeff Schogal put it: “President Donald Trump has vowed that ‘brand new Sherman tanks’ will be on display this July 4th in Washington, D.C., and no one in the military seems to have an idea what the living hell he is talking about.” Read on, here.)
As for the planes, the White House is being incredibly tight-lipped about the types that will be flying. Pentagon officials referred all questions about the flyover to political officials across the Potomac River, who declined to comment.
“You don’t own that plane, the taxpayers do!” The memorable line from the 1986 movie “Top Gun” seems appropriate right now with all of the secrecy surrounding the parade and flyover. (There are also a number of other great one-liners from James Tolkan’s character “Stinger,” but we’ll save them for another time.)
How much will this cost? Hard to say without an exact understanding of what’s going to be on display, but the 2017 project was billed at $90 million. Read on, here.
From Defense One
US Senate Approves $750 Billion Defense Policy Bill // Charles S. Clark, Government Executive: The National Defense Authorization Act also contains 3.1% military pay hike and acquisition reforms.
U.S. Army Making Synthetic Biology a Priority // Patrick Tucker: New thermal cloaking, insect-proof uniforms are on the horizon, if the U.S. can get out in front of China.
The Normalization of Meeting Kim Jong Un // Uri Friedman, The Atlantic: Trump probably won’t convince the North Koreans to give up their nuclear weapons. But that doesn’t mean he has accomplished nothing.
How AI Will Transform Anti-Submarine Warfare // Patrick Tucker: New Navy projects seek to capture more data about the oceans’ depths — then train computers to out-think human captains.
Welcome to this Tuesday edition of The D Brief by Marcus Weisgerber and Katie Bo Williams. On July 2, 1926, Congress established the U.S. Army Air Corps, the predecessor to today’s Air Force. Thanks for reading! Subscribe here. Send tips here.
Trump says he would leave “very strong intelligence” in Afghanistan if the U.S. left. Asked by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson how much longer American troops will be in Afghanistan, Trump said, “[W]e want to get out. We want to get out of a lot of areas that we’re in. We shouldn’t be there. We shouldn’t be there.” Afghanistan, he said, is “a lab for terrorists… I call it the Harvard of terrorists.” Trump said he “would leave very strong intelligence” in Afghanistan. Excerpts from the interview are here.
Meanwhile, “rival Afghans will meet Sunday in Qatar, officials said, in a fresh attempt to make political headway as the United States seeks a peace deal with the Taliban within three months,” AFP reports. More here.
Speaking of Russia, a new report “prepared for the Joint Chiefs of Staff” warns Moscow is doing a better job than Washington in the battle for global influence, Politico reports. “[T]he U.S. is still underestimating the scope of Russia’s aggression, which includes the use of propaganda and disinformation to sway public opinion across Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Latin America. The study also points to the dangers of a growing alignment between Russia and China, which share a fear of the United States’ international alliances and an affinity for ‘authoritarian stability.’” Read the 150-page report here.
Turkey is stockpiling weapons because Ankara fears the U.S. government will place sanctions on it for buying the S-400 missile defense system from Russia, Bloomberg reports: “Still haunted by a crippling U.S. arms embargo half a century ago, Turkey’s military has been amassing parts for F-16 jets and other military hardware, according to two Turkish officials familiar with their country’s defense strategy.” Turkish media reports the first S-400 interceptors could arrive in “a week or 10 days.” More here.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in at a Tuesday cabinet meeting shed some light on the weekend get together between himself, President Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. “Moon told Trump there that half of the South Korean population of 51 million live in Seoul and nearby Gyeonggi Province, as little as 40 kilometers away from the inter-Korean border,” the Yonhap News Agency reports. “More than 100,000 U.S. citizens reside in Seoul alone, he added.” More here.
It’s hard being a spy. A multimillion-dollar restructure of intelligence agencies’ bureaucracy by consulting firm McKinsey “has left many within the country’s intelligence agencies demoralized and less effective,” Politico, citing “nearly a dozen current and former officials who either witnessed the restructuring first-hand or are familiar with the project,” reports. “They say McKinsey helped to complicate a well-established linear chain-of-command system, slowing down projects and turnaround time, and applied cookie-cutter solutions to agencies with unique cultures. In the process, numerous employees have become dismayed, saying the efforts have at best been a waste of money and, at worst, made their jobs more difficult.” More here.
*More* ice melting in the arctic: Now it’s “sea ice” that’s disappearing, which researchers say could lead to hotter ocean water, thus driving more extreme weather globally, The Guardian reports. “The vast expanse of sea ice around Antarctica has suffered a “precipitous” fall since 2014, satellite data shows, and fell at a faster rate than seen in the Arctic. The plunge in the average annual extent means Antarctica lost as much sea ice in four years as the Arctic lost in 34 years.” More here.
We’ll leave you with this… Even though it’s rarely used these days, the Pentagon’s press briefing room underwent a makeover in recent weeks. In addition to new carpets and curtains, there are new, sleeker podiums, wooden, backlit backdrops and… a red velvet rope? Here’s a picture. By the way, a Pentagon spokesman hasn’t taken questions, on camera from the podium in more than 13 months.