Air Guard responds to anti-F-35 Burlington ballot question

Vermont Business Magazine The City of Burlington has added a citizens, non-binding question on the Town Meeting Day ballot regarding whether Burlington voters support, or not, the basing of the F-35 at the Air Guard base at the Burlington Internation Airport. There was much debate about the wording of the ballot question, which eventually was left intact from the original petition. On Friday afternoon Vermont National Guard Major General Steven Cray held a press conference at the base to discuss the F-35. His opening comments and video are below, as well as the ballot resolution.

Major General Steven Cray: "My condolences to the Pomerleau family. Mr. Pomerleau was a staunch supporter of the VT National Guard and was outspoken about his respect for the men and women in uniform. He is an honorary Green Mountain Boy and will be sorely missed in our communities.

"There seems to be some misinformation being circulated about where we are in the F35 basing process by the opponents of the F35. I also want to make a few comments about the non-binding ballot question being presented to the voters of Burlington.

"I need to make it perfectly clear that I am the spokesperson for the Vermont National Guard, the opponents of the F35 are not. My senior leadership team is fully versed in in our current and future missions. They also speak for the VT Air Guard.

"It’s important the Vermont residents fully understand where we are in the F35 basing process. Since the record of decision in December of 2013, millions of dollars have been invested into the infrastructure of the airport to accommodate the basing of the F-35. We have pilots and maintenance personnel training and conducting F35 operations at locations around the United States, all in preparation for the arrival of the F-35. In just a short 18 months the first two aircraft will arrive here in Vermont. Our airmen are 100% committed and focused on this mission change. Your airmen take great pride in being selected as the first Air National Guard base to operate the F35. The Air Force is counting on us to be prepared and we will be.

"There is no alternative mission being planned for the VT Air National Guard. The Environmental Impact Statement clearly states that the F35 is the aircraft that was chosen by the Air Force and other services to replace the F-16 and A-10. The Vermont Air Guard is moving forward with the F35 mission they have been assigned. There is neither the time nor the resources to look in the past. The F35 basing decision was made and upheld numerous times and we are moving forward.

"It’s important to remember that on October 28th of 2013 the Burlington City Council voted overwhelmingly to oppose two resolutions that were against the basing of the F35 in Burlington. The council weighed in on this issue over four years ago. We recognize the difficult position the city council was put in by the F35 opponents with the wording of the most recent petition and they are complying with a process they were advised to follow. In my opinion, the ballot question is inaccurate in that it misleads the voter into thinking they are supporting the Air Guard when in fact it attempts to reverse a decision by the Air Force nearly four years ago. The F35 is coming to Vermont in 18 months. Your airmen are proud of the mission they perform to support the citizens of Vermont and the defense of our Nation."

Ballot Resolution

Shall we, the voters of the City of Burlington, as part of our strong support for the men and women of the Vermont National Guard, and especially their mission to 'protect the citizens of Vermont,' advise the City Council to:

1) request the cancellation of the planned basing of the F-35 at Burlington International Airport, and

2) request instead low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record appropriate for a densely populated area?

Source: Vermont National Guard 2.9.2018