President Donald Trump's vision of soldiers marching and tanks rolling down the boulevards of Washington is moving closer to reality in the Pentagon and White House, where officials say they have begun to plan a grand military parade later this year showcasing the might of America's armed forces.
Trump has long mused publicly and privately about wanting such a parade, but a Jan. 18 meeting between Trump and top generals in the Pentagon's tank - a room reserved for top secret discussions - marked a tipping point, according to two officials briefed on the planning, the Washignton Post reported.
Surrounded by the military's highest ranking officials, including Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Joe Dunford, Trump's seemingly abstract desire for a parade was suddenly heard as a presidential directive, the officials said.
"The marching orders were: I want a parade like the one in France," said a military official who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the planning discussions are supposed to remain confidential. "This is being worked at the highest levels of the military."
American shows of military strength don't come cheap. The cost of shipping Abrams tanks and high-tech hardware to Washington could run in the millions, and military officials said it was unclear how they would pay for it.
A White House official familiar with the planning described the discussions as "brainstorming" and said nothing is settled. "Right now there's really no meat on the bones," said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe internal discussions.
Still, the official said Trump is determined to have a parade. "The president wants to do something that highlights the service and sacrifice of the military and have a unifying moment for the country," the official said.
The inspiration for Trump's push is last year's Bastille Day celebration in Paris, which the president attended as a guest of French President Emmanuel Macron. Trump was awestruck by the tableau of uniformed French troops marching down Avenue des Champs-Elysees with military tanks, armored vehicles, gun trucks and carriers - complete with F-16 fighter jets flying over the Arc de Triomphe and painting the sky with streaks of blue, white and red smoke for the colors of the French flag.
Several administration officials said the parade planning began in recent weeks and involves White House chief of staff John Kelly, but cautioned that it is in the preliminary stages. District of Columbia officials said they have not been notified of parade plans.
Trump officials had discussed Memorial Day on May 28, and July 4, but the Pentagon prefers Veterans Day on Nov. 11 - in part because it would coincide with 100th anniversary of the victorious end of World War I and therefore be less associated with the president and politics. "That's what everyone is hoping," said the military official.