The US Air Force has been quietly shopping the operational basing of its F-35A manned fighter jet squadrons around to different communities across the country. Most recently, following its issuance of a draft environmental impact statement (“EIS”), the Air Force has whittled the list of possible ‘beddown’ locations down to two; the joint civil/military airport adjacent to Burlington, Vermont (KBTV) and another air guard station located in Ogden, Utah. While the impending decision about where to base F-35A warplane squadrons has been a long time coming, there has also been growing public opposition in some of the potential beddown communities.
Community concern runs the gamut from increased noise (the F-35A is moderately louder than the deafening F-16 it is intended to replace), to increased environmental degradation (even though the engine in the F-35A is cutting edge, it in some cases produces more toxic emissions than the older F-16 it is intended to replace), to the potential threat to life and property posed by a crash (the airport is surrounded on all sides by residential communities & commercial and industrial parks) and, of course, to the argument that this warplane represents all that is wrong with our country’s priorities. The most obvious argument against Burlington in particular being chosen as the beddown location is the fact that it ranks the worst overall out of all of the choices, according to the Air Force’s own draft EIS, as evidenced on page ES-62.
Vermont’s congressional delegation, led by the senior Senator Patrick Leahy (influential chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee) and its supposedly progressive-leaning governor are all supportive of the Burlington Air Guard Station’s application, as is Burlington’s new mayor. Their support alone has likely resulted in some of the urgency to overlook Burlington’s poor EIS score. Another likely factor is the airport’s close proximity to 9/11-ravaged New York City (less than 300 nautical miles away).
A public forum on the proposed beddown occurred last week at which public opposition was quite evident. This was followed by an overwhelming majority of city councilors from one of the communities that stands to suffer most from an F-35 base voting in opposition to the proposed beddown. City councils representing two other communities are expected to weigh-in as well in the coming weeks.
Community members opposing the operational beddown in Burlington are supported by two websites:
The Air Force plans to rule on a new base location later this year. The public comment period has been extended to June 20. Official comments directed to the Air Force can be submitted via the following:
Mr. Nicholas Germanos, HQ ACC/A7PS
129 Andrews St., Suite 332
Langley AFB, VA 23665-2769
Written comments directed to the Air Force can also be unofficially submitted via the following:
Email: nicholas.germanos @ langley.af.mil or sheryl.parker @ langley.af.mil