VERMONT "LEADERS" TURN DEAF EAR TO F-35 NOISE AND HEALTH
F-35 nuclear-capable stealth fighter by F-16.net
By William Boardman Email address removed
None of the more notable supporters of basing the nuclear-capable F-35 stealth fighter-bomber at Burlington Airport in Vermont, not one, had the courage to tell the Burlington Board of Health that the F-35 would be good for the community's health. The available evidence points strongly to the F-35 being bad for people's health.
The Board of Health hearing on November 27 heard three health experts, two of whom criticized the plane's health impact, while the third called it "a very murky area." Of the dozen members of the audience of about 50 who spoke, all objected to the plane's deleterious effects.
The F-35 has faced local opposition for almost three years, opposition that has grown since the U.S. Air Force released a draft environmental impact statement in the spring of 2012, provoking widespread objections to its assumptions, methodology, and conclusions. To date, the Air Force continues to withhold documents relevant to the criticisms.
The final impact statement is now scheduled for release in mid-January 2013, with the final basing decision expected a month or so later. If the F-35 is based in Burlington, it's not expected to arrive before 2020, about 20 years since the world's most expensive weapons program -- approaching $400 billion -- began. So far it is about a decade behind schedule and 100% over budget.
The F-35 program has been troubled for years, to the point where some in Washington are looking to cut their losses. According to the New York Times of November 28, budget cutters are eyeing this expensive program that is still in the testing phase and still years from full deployment. Two days later the Times reported that the Pantagon had agreed in principle to pay $3.8 billion for 32 F-35s "after a year of tense negotiations over how to lower costs."
Public Officials Duck Public Meetings
No one from the Air Force came to the board of health hearing, nor did anyone from the Pentagon or the plane's maker, Lockheed Martin. None of the Vermont congressional delegation appeared or sent representatives -- not Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy who says he wants the F-35 in Burlington, not independent Senator Bernie Sanders of Democratic Rep. Peter Welch, who say the same thing. Outspoken supporter Governor Peter Shumlin was absent and so was more tepid supporter Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, both Democrats.
Chris Hurd, a local real estate agent who attended the hearing, published his observations afterward:
"And what of our elected officials? Not a single public hearing to allow those most affected by the basing to shine a spotlight upon grievances and health concerns has been held by Senators Leahy, Sanders, Rep. Welch, or our Governor.
"No official calls for transparency, no inquiries into the stunning lack of data and no one from the delegation willing to even QUESTION this basing. Shame upon all of you."
Lacking any high-ranking profiles in courage, someone in authority apparently decided that a Vermont National Guard (VTANG) Lt. Colonel would be a sufficient stand-in for the AWOL leaders. That's how the board ended up hearing often unreliable information from Col. Luke "Torch" Ahmann, whose most relevant experience had been piloting F-16s for the past dozen years.
Costumed in his flight suit for his ground appearance before a civilian audience, Col. Ahmann tried reassuring the group that the F-35 noise level "is probably going to be quite similar" to the already objectionable noise of the F-16 -- even though the Air Force impact statement says the F-35 is twice as loud as the F-16. Some object to this assessment, but the Air Force refuses to release documentation that might resolve it.