From: “U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders” <[email protected]>
Date: November 9, 2015, 5:41:22 PM EST
Subject: Email from Senator Sanders
Thank you for contacting me about the U.S. Air Force’s decision to base the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in South Burlington. I appreciate the opportunity to respond to your concerns on this very important issue.
Let me begin by stating that I believe it speaks to the commendable record of the Vermont National Guard that the Air Force decided to base its newest generation of planes in South Burlington. The Vermont Guard played a critical role responding to the September 11 attacks in New York, Tropical Storm Irene in Vermont, and Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. And, while I personally have deep concerns about the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, there is no question that Vermont Guard members have served admirably and honorably – often at enormous personal cost – when called to active duty.
I do not want to see the role of the Vermont Air National Guard diminished or eliminated, and this decision ensures the mission of the Vermont Air Guard far into the future. It protects the jobs and educational opportunities for more than a thousand Vermonters while securing the Guard’s significant contribution to the local economy for years to come. Moreover, a failure to be chosen in the first F-35 basing round would have exposed the Burlington Air Guard Station to the Base Realignment and Closure process, and that is why the Vermont Guard leadership unequivocally believed the best way to ensure their mission was to get the F-35. I supported that position.
There are residents near the airport who are very legitimately concerned about noise, and I share that concern. Along with Senator Leahy and Congressman Welch, I have asked the Air Force to address noise concerns. We have also urged the Guard to work closely with its airport neighbors to reduce noise to the extent possible through operational measures such as limiting afterburner use, flying at less than full military power, modifying take-off and landing patterns, etc.
And, like many Vermonters I have serious concerns about the cost of this plane. Throughout my career, I have called for cutting military spending and rooting-out fraud, waste and corruption in the defense industry. At the very least, I believe Lockheed Martin must cover cost overages, rather than the U.S. taxpayer.
However, whether one likes the F-35 or not, the Air Force is moving forward with plans to replace the F-16 with the F-35. As long as the F-35 is deployed anywhere, I would rather protect the mission of the citizen soldiers of the Vermont Guard, and maintain 1100 jobs here in Vermont, rather than in South Carolina or Florida.
Thank you again for contacting me, and please feel free to stay in touch about this or any other subject of interest to you. For up-to-date information on what I am working on, please sign-up for my e-newsletter, the Bernie Buzz, at http://sanders.senate.gov/buzz/.
United States Senator