Commentary

Rosanne Greco: F-35s essential for Burlington? The record says otherwise

This commentary is by Rosanne Greco of South Burlington, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel, former chair of the South Burlington City Council, and leader of Save Our Skies VT, a group opposed to basing of F-35 planes in South Burlington.

A lie is an intentionally false statement, said or written with an intent to deceive. A recent VTDigger article quoted Sen. Patrick Leahy, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Rep. Peter Welch as saying they all supported the F-35’s arrival “because there will be no mission for the Vermont Air National Guard if it’s not the F-35.”

Multiple official statements from the U.S. Air Force and a U.S. District Court judge say just the opposite: “If Burlington was not selected (for the F-35), the base’s current mission would continue.”

Here are some of the U.S. Air Force statements. 

  • “Therefore, if there is no F-35A operational bed-down at Burlington AGS the current mission would continue.” (page PA-47)
  • “At each alternative location, there are ongoing and currently planned activities and programs that would continue, whether or not the location is chosen for the bed-down of the F-35A operational aircraft.” (page 2-29)
  • F-35A Operational Basing Environmental Impact Statement: 

“…Expected Burlington to continue to fly military aircraft if it was not selected to host the F-35A.”

“Not replacing the Burlington’s F-16s with F-35s means that at some point in the future, something else will happen. We just don’t know yet what it is.”

“Many F-16s are being retrofitted to extend their service life. … Had the Air Force not decided to base the F-35s at Burlington, the present F-16s could well have been replaced with other F-16s.”

“…Had the F-35A not been selected to replace the F-16s, there could have been any number of reasonable alternatives available to the Air Force on how to configure Burlington.”

  • Federal court record (Case No 5:14-cv-132, defendant’s memo in opposition to plaintiffs’ motion), March 7, 2016, page 59-60

“Plaintiffs take one record fact — that the F-16s currently assigned to Burlington are approaching the end of their productive lifespan — and leap to the conclusion that, absent the F-35A, Burlington would have been left with empty hangers. … As should be self-evident, the scheduled retirement of the F-16 aircraft stationed at Burlington does not inevitably lead to empty hangars at Burlington. Burlington’s history proves that. Through the years, particular aircraft have come and gone, but the military mission has remained. … Tight different airframes have been flown by the VTANG over its 70-year history.”

“The ROD did note that the F-16s presently at Burlington are scheduled to retire, but nothing in the ROD suggests the Air Force expected the retirement of those aircraft to leave Burlington’s hangars empty. To the contrary, the Air Force informed the public that if Burlington was not selected, the base’s current mission would continue.

  • Federal court records (Case No 5:14-cv-132, defendant’s reply memo), May 13, 2016, pages 21-22

Legal Opinion of U.S. District Court Judge Geoffrey Crawford: “The (environmental impact statement) is drafted from the perspective that military jets of some description will continue to be flown by VTANG and that there is no reason to believe that base will close and the squadron disbanded even if the F-35 aircraft are based elsewhere.” 

“The Air Force has stated its commitment to fighter operations in Burlington even if the F-35 is based elsewhere.”

“… There is no evidence of a plan to close the base or to use it for purposes other than flying aircraft.” 

“… There is no indication in the record that defendant has decided to close the VANG base if the F-35 does not arrive. The record shows the opposite. Fighter planes of one description or another will continue to be based at VANG.”

  • Federal court record (Case No 5:14-cv-132, decision on cross-motions for summary judgment), Aug. 10, 2016

Sen. Leahy, Sen. Sanders and Rep. Welch say ”there will be no mission for the VT Air National Guard without the F-35s.”

The U.S. Air Force, which assigns missions to Air Guard units, stated they “expected Burlington to continue to fly military aircraft even if it was not selected to host the F-35A.”

District Court Judge Crawford stated, “… There is no evidence of a plan to close the base or to use it for purposes other than flying aircraft.” 

Who is lying?


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