DC’s last July 4th celebration cost twice as much as in previous years, report shows

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The Government Accountability Office report found that Independence Day events in 2016, 2017 and 2018 cost $6 million to $7 million annually.

“In 2019, with the addition of the Salute to America event, the Department of Defense (DOD) and Executive Office of the President undertook additional efforts,” the report states.

“Estimated costs for the 2019 events on the National Mall increased to more than $13 million,” it continues. “This increase was attributable to the cost for DOD to transport several vehicles to the National Mall, the production and execution of the Salute to America event, and the additional security involved because the President attended the event.”

Last year’s festivities had a pronounced military focus, featuring flyovers, tanks and other ceremonial units such as the Old Guard Fife and Drum Corps, the US Army Band (“Pershing’s Own”) and the US Marine Corps Silent Drill Team.

After a flyover from the plane that normally serves as Air Force One, Trump delivered 20 minutes of remarks that were an homage to the nation’s early history and its military. In a crowd-pleasing closer, the President hailed each branch of the military as aircraft from their fleets — including a B-2 stealth bomber and the Blue Angels — flew overhead, causing Washington’s buildings to shake and rumble. Bands heralded the individual branches with their official march songs.

The plan was to have two M1 Abrams tanks, two Bradley fighting vehicles and an armored M88 Recovery Vehicle, along with an “appropriate” number of accompanying personnel, a US defense official told CNN at the time.

There were to be about 750 to 800 military personnel taking part in the celebration, a defense official told CNN. That didn’t include members of the DC National Guard who were activated to provide traffic control and security on the streets and in the city’s Metro system.

Last year marked a vastly scaled-up version of how presidents ordinarily celebrate July Fourth — usually with a picnic for service members and their families on the White House South Lawn, followed by a viewing of fireworks over the Washington Monument.
The event’s costs drew from several different funding streams. The National Park Service redirected nearly $2.5 million to help cover costs related to the extravaganza, according to The Washington Post, money that the paper said is usually “primarily intended to improve parks across the country.”

The Interior Department announced in a statement just before the event that the additional fireworks, valued at $750,000, had been donated.

CNN’s Gregory Wallace, Kevin Liptak and Ryan Browne contributed to this report.

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