In the past few months, incorrect statements have appeared in numerous letters and articles regarding the F-35A basing at the Burlington Air Guard Station. The most recent of these was the Burlington Free Press My Turn article titled “F-35s right choice for Vermont” on September 9, 2012.
Two of the most prevalent misstatements are that the Burlington Guard Base will close if the F35A is not based here, and that basing the F35A at the Burlington Air Guard Station will result in more jobs and/or will be an economic gain for the area.
According to high-ranking political and military officials, and a formal Air Force report, both assertations are false. No government official has ever said that the Burlington Guard Base is going to close if the F-35A is not based here; and the Draft Environmental Impact Statement states that basing the F-35A at the Burlington Air Guard Station will not result in any economic gain to our area.
Employing scare tactics about base closing and then implying it would be like the closing of Plattsburgh–an active duty Air Force Base with over 5,000 military personnel–is grossly misleading. The Burlington Air National Guard Base has a 300-person workforce and is a tenant of Burlington International Airport, with whom it shares runways.
It’s vital to look at the credentials and motivations of those voicing opinions. You may have noticed that many senior military officers become vocal anti-war/weapons advocates after retirement. As a junior officer, I remember being shocked when the four-star general in charge of the Strategic Air Command where I worked, became an anti-nuclear-war advocate shortly after his retirement. Now I understand, because the longer one serves in the military and the higher one’s rank, the more chances there are for that individual to have personally experienced the costs of war, or to have witnessed it in their troops.
The costs of war are not limited to the battlefield where soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines lose their lives or parts of their lives. On too many occasions, military members, including those returning from battle, find their salaries frozen, their benefits cut, their health care diminished, family benefits slashed, and when they retire, their health care costs skyrocket. Some military people even lose their jobs. Why? To pay for weapon systems. The Department of Defense routinely cuts personnel and personnel benefits to pay for weapons, some of which the military never even wants. I’ve seen it happen during my 29 years on active duty in the U.S. Air Force. And it will likely happen again in the very near future.
See beyond the slogans to the reality. ‘Jobs at any cost’ is not correct. All jobs cost…some more so than others. War provides jobs; but without examining the cost, one would be lead to the logical conclusion that since war creates jobs, and is good for the economy, wars should be promoted. As morally reprehensive as that sounds, it unfortunately appears to be our sad reality. Expensive weapons systems do create jobs and are indeed an economic boom—to defense contractors. But they come at a huge cost to the average taxpayer and military member. Think of the costs, because the F-35A will cost us dearly.
Colonel, U.S. Air Force (retired)
Chair, South Burlington City Council
63 Four Sisters Rd
South Burlington, VT 05403