Even though Burlington owns the airport located in South Burlington, the Burlington city council has been a hotbed of inaction on the F-35 so far, passing only a resolution to seek more information. In early September, the four Progressive city councilors announced their plan to put the council on the record by offering a resolution to block the F-35 basing at the city-owned airport.
The city council has 14 members. In addition to the four progressives, there are two independents, one Republican, and seven Democrats, making the outcome on the resolution uncertain, given the Democratic pressure in the state to support the American war machine. Approaching the vote, it appears that there are four votes in favor of the resolution, four opposed, and the rest probably worried that voting either way could be a big mistake.
A month ahead of the vote, Progressive city councilor Rachel Siegel said of the outcome: "I'm unsure, to be totally be frank. I'm going to work my tail off to try to get there. It's going to be a lot of work I believe because a lot of them [Democrats] follow the state leadership and our administration at the city level who are proponents of basing [F-35s] here for God knows why."
At the time of their announcement, the Progressives were joined by three new, Democratic state legislators: two House members and the Senate majority leader, Philip Baruth, the highest-ranking Vermont Democrat yet to oppose the F-35. The Vermont Natural Resources Council has also joined the F-35 opposition, sending a letter to the mayor and city council saying that the expanded militarization of the airport would come at the expense of community housing and growth. F-35 opponents plan to support the Progressives' resolution with a door-to-door leafleting campaign, as well as several continuing legal challenges.
Lack of accountability can be hilarious, albeit unintentionally
In what has the earmarks of a politically-timed response to the increased opposition to its warplane, the Pentagon announced September 12 that it would study another Vermont site as a potential base for an anti-missile missile system, part of the Ballistic Missile Defense System's effort to protect the country from Iran, which does not yet have any missiles that could reach the United States.
The Pentagon announced the site study for Camp Ethan Allen, a federally-owned Vermont National Guard post near Burlington, without giving any advance notice to the Vermont Congressional delegation. This combination of events inspired each member of the delegation to issue an unintentionally hilarious objection to the anti-missile missiles, since each response was just as applicable to the F-35:
Leahy issued a statement saying: "I've always felt that the multiple billions spent on missile defense are a monumental waste of money, on technologically challenged systems, and I am emphatically against putting one of these sites in Vermont." Leahy once questioned the $400 billion and counting spent on the F-35, although he stopped short of calling that technologically challenged weapons system "technologically challenged."
Sanders supported Leahy, saying: "My first impression is that this is a very bad idea and, for a wide variety of reasons, I do not believe that it will ever happen." For reasons he has yet to explain, Sanders has not pointed out that the bad idea of the F-35 is a "bad idea."
Welch supported Leahy, saying: "This is absurd. It's the wrong location for a bad idea and dead on arrival." So implicitly, Welch thinks the Burlington Airport is the right location for a bad idea.
Shumlin supported everyone, saying: "Vermonters are well-served by our federal delegation's thoughtful involvement and deep experience in these issues, and I agree with Senator Leahy, Senator Sanders and Congressman Welch." Translation:
The missile-system-formerly-known-as-star-wars still doesn't work
As the New York Times reported in July: "A test launching of an advanced missile-defense interceptor failed to hit its target high over the Pacific Ocean, the Pentagon said on Friday, four months after the Obama administration announced that it would spend $1 billion to increase the number of interceptors along the West Coast in response to verbal threats from North Korea ."
The report went on to say that the Pentagon didn't know why the missile failed and that this particular missile system has had no successful test in five years. Prior to that, "the interceptors had a mixed record, hitting dummy targets just 50 percent of the time."
In September, the chief executive officer of Boeing Defense, Space and Security, the missile's maker, called for more testing to make the missile system reliable.