F-35 decision-making process repeatable, defendable and transparent? Not
by James Marc Leas, Stop the F35 Coalition
I was floored by Vermont Air National Guard spokesman Capt. Chris Gookin ‘s remark on Vermont Public Radio on September 26: “The takeaway,” Gookin said, “is that we remain confident in the decision-making process because the decision making process – it’s repeatable, it’s defendable and it’s transparent.”
If only it was so. Capt. Chris Gookin’s statement defending the decision-making process actually highlights its illegitimacy.
In the spirit of the “transparency” he describes, will Capt. Gookin obtain and release the transcript of Senator Patrick Leahy’s phone conversation with Air Force Chief of Staff General Mark A Welsh that was reported in the Burlington Free Press on September 5? This transcript is likely to reveal the intense pressure Senator Leahy exerted on the Air Force to reverse its decision to delay basing at any of the Air National Guard sites and to select Burlington as the preferred site for operational basing F-35 warplanes in the very first basing round.
Also in the spirit of “transparency,” will he seek release of the unredacted scoring sheets for all the bases considered so the true extent of the “fudging” reported by Pentagon insiders can be considered by the public? The Pentagon insiders told the Boston Globe that “the base-selection process was deliberately ‘fudged’ by military brass so that Leahy’s home state would win.” They said that “Unfortunately Burlington was selected even before the scoring process began.”
Will Capt. Gookin explain how a decision that is based not on facts, not on military judgment, and not on operational needs, but purely on pressure from Senator Leahy, the most senior Senator in the US Senate, the Senator with heaviest influence over the Air Force budget, can be called “defendable?”
At the moment the military brass fudged the scoring sheets the military brass acknowledged that fudging was needed. If the brass thought that they could get Burlington into the final process without fudging they would not have fudged. For the process to be “repeatable” fudging would again be needed. Is Capt. Gookin actually admitting that the process remains corrupt?
The takeaway actually is that the decision-making was illegitimate and the process remains illegitimate.
Regardless of the decision foisted upon the Air Force by Senator Leahy, the F-35 basing can be stopped. It is far from being a done deal. That is because the decision is not only up to the Air Force. There is another decision-maker.
As owner and operator of the airport, the City of Burlington can put some legitimacy back into the process. It can pass a resolution stating that it will use its authority as landowner, pursuant to lease and runway sharing agreements it has with the Air Force, to prevent its tenant from basing F-35 jets at its airport. Passage of such a resolution will likely be enough for the Air Force to reconsider its basing options and deselect Burlington, at least from the first basing round.
A resolution saying just that will be up for a vote at the October 7 Burlington City Council meeting. The Council Chair has set a special public comment period to debate F-35 basing that begins at 6 pm. Everyone is urged to come out and attend this meeting. A lively rally on the Church Street steps of City Hall begins at 5:30 sharp. Several City Councilors supporting the resolution to stop F-35 basing in Burlington will speak.
James Marc Leas is a patent lawyer in South Burlington