Leas: Why I ran for Vermont adjutant general

Editor’s note: This piece is by James Marc Leas, a patent lawyer from South Burlington, who was one of four candidates for adjutant general of the Vermont Guard. (Legislators elected Brig. Gen. Steven Cray, who assume the post March 1.) It is the text of the speech he gave to the Senate and House Democratic Party Caucuses and to the House Republican Caucus at the Statehouse Tuesday, Feb. 19.

Vermont needs an adjutant general who will serve and protect Vermont — with no responsibility to a chain of command in Washington.

The Founding Fathers provided states with exclusive power to choose the officers of the state militia. This constitutional check on federal power is particularly important when that federal chain of command has a record of illegal, immoral and unjust wars of aggression based on lies — and fails to properly care for the surviving veterans.

The federal chain of command also chose torture, detention without trial, and extra-judicial executions.

Now the federal chain of command is attacking Vermont citizens. An Air Force report says the F-35 weapons system will be more than four times louder than the F-16, and that F-35 noise will make 3,000 affordable homes “unsuitable for residential use” in Winooski, Burlington, Williston and South Burlington.

A WCAX reporter said on Vermont This Week, “the irony is that you have opponents citing the Air Force report and the Air Guard backing away from the Air Force report.”

Think of this: the Guard swears to defend the constitution. Life, liberty, and property are what’s protected there. Not jobs.

Supporters of the F-35 say jobs are at stake. But the Air Force says it’s extending the life of the F-16 at least until 2030. And former Adjutant Gen. Michael Dubie testified that maintainer jobs will be lost if the F-35 comes. So why the rush to replace the F-16 for the F-35?

Damage to lives and property is not theoretical. South Burlington is now looking at what was a thriving community of 120 affordable homes near the airport, now demolished because of F-16 noise. An FAA report regarding the Burlington Airport said that acquiring the property and relocating the families was the only mitigation for the F-16 noise. This is consistent with the 2011 World Health Organization report that said noise at that level causes adverse health effects, including cognitive impairment for 50 percent of children.

We lost 120 affordable homes to the F-16 but we can save 3,000 homes from the F-35.

Even if jobs were at stake, which they are not, the Guard cannot be allowed to counterpose Guard jobs to the loss of homes. Think of this: the Guard swears to defend the constitution. Life, liberty, and property are what’s protected there. Not jobs. The Grand List assessed value adds up to nearly $600 million. All of our oaths of office require defending those homes from the chain of command in D.C.

The Vermont Air National Guard’s own mission statement says it will protect “human health … protect life and property … and “add value to our communities.” The Guard is running away, not just from the Air Force report, but also from the constitution and also from its own mission statement.

The Air Force signed an agreement that F-35 flights would not use the Eglin Air Force base runway that aims at Valparaiso, one mile from the runway. The Air Force did right for Valparaiso, and should do the same for Winooski and Williston.

All this illustrates why we need an adjutant general whose only duty is to Vermont. We need an adjutant general who will equip the Guard to protect Vermonters from the next Hurricane Irene, not for the next war of aggression cooked up by the chain of command. Someone who fulfils the Guard mission and the constitutional requirement to protect the lives and property of Vermonters. We need an adjutant general who is not in the chain of command from a Washington military-industrial complex that wantonly sacrificed our Vermont soldiers, airmen, and veterans, and now is doing the same to our homes and the health of our children. We need an adjutant general who will protect Vermont — including protecting Vermont from the F-35. Thank you very much.

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  • First off, thanks for running and thanks for this essay explaining why. There is a lot of educational value in doomed political campaigns and I think what you did is admirable.

    I also think it’s kind of baffling, though.

    I am unclear on what leverage you think Vermont really has to make the changes & reforms you outline here. With respect to your arguments, it’s not just about “chain of command,” it’s also about funding and ownership. This is considerably more fundamental than value judgements about the behavior of DoD and FedGov.

    Last I checked was FY2010 and Vermont pitched in $3m for a $197m budget. What kind of leverage does a 1% stakeholder have in any negotiation…especially when the Pentagon is sitting on the other side of the table?

  • sandra bettis

    thank you for running!!! excellent reasons indeed!!!

  • Steven Farnham

    Good piece. Why didn’t it come out before the legislature selected the new Adjutant General?

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