Committee on Military Considers F-35 Relevance
Appearing before the Vermont House Committee on General, Housing & Military Affairs on February 14, attorney James Marc Leas presented himself as a candidate for the open position of Adjutant General of the Vermont National Guard and addressed the F-35 basing question which affects the future mission of the Vermont Guard. He urged the committee to hold hearings and make recommendations regarding the F-35 before the Air Force announces its decision.
Leas held up a copy of the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Air Force paid $2 million to produce and emphasized that its is this document that provides the fact that are used by opponents of the F-35. Urging the committee to address the facts, he noted that
"It's the Air National Guard that won't discuss the facts that are in here and that are devastating to the people of Winooski, Williston, Burlington and South Burlington".
"The Guard has a mission statement, and I think the challenge for the Guard is to implement its own mission statement, which says that it will protect lives and property in Vermont, and that it will contribute to the community, and that it will protect the health and safety of Vermonters. That's the mission statement of the Vermont National Guard.
"Having a National Guard that is attempting to bring in an airplane, that it knows from its own environmental impact statement -- that it refuses to discuss -- is going to destroy almost 3,000 homes and is going to tear up the lives of more than 6,000 people in Vermont is not consistent with that mission".
He urged the committee to hold hearings on the issue, as well as two resolutions submitted by legislators and referred to this committee, one resolution supporting the F-35 and the other suggesting that the state take the time to determine the impact of the base before making a decision.
New General Avoids Predecessor's Fear-Mongering
The Committee on General, Housing & Military affairs later decided that the question of the F-35 and its impact on Vermont low income housing was not relevant to the committee. The committee is headed by two Democrats, Helen Head of South Burlington and John Moran of Wardsboro.
Leas was not chosen adjutant general for the Vermont Air National Guard, nor did he expect to be. He did get four votes. As he told the committee somewhat ruefully,
"We have the facts. We have the arguments. But somehow our political leaders are immune to facts and arguments unless large numbers of people come out."
The new adjutant general, Brig. Gen. Steven Cray, said publicly after his election that even without the F-35, the Vermont Air National Guard base won't close, though its mission and size might change. This is a sharp change from his predecessor, Gen. Michael Dubie, who frequently warned the public to be afraid that, without the F-35, the base would close.
A little more than a year ago, Senator John McCain, R-AZ, commented on the F-35, also known as the JSF -- Joint Strike Fighter, in remarks on the Senate floor:
"In a nutshell, the JSF program has been both a scandal and a tragedy."
McCain has softened his rhetoric since then, but he hasn't retracted the characterization. And the F-35's performance has not improved.