Air Force secretary says F-35 only option for Vermont

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Air Force secretary says F-35 only option for Vermont

Thu, 05/17/2018 - 3:32pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine Below is a link to video and text of Senator Patrick Leahy’s (D-Vermont) exchange  with Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson at today’s Appropriations Committee hearing. Secretary Wilson testified directly that there is not another mission for the Vermont Air National Guard, other than the F-35 mission. Leahy is the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and today’s hearing is part of the committee’s process in writing the federal budget for Fiscal Year 2019.

The VIDEO can be found by clicking the image of Secretary Wilson.

A TRANSCRIPT of this video of the Leahy-Wilson Q&A is also BELOW.

Senate Appropriations Committee

Hearing On The Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Proposal

For The U.S. Air Force

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson

Chief of Staff of the Air Force General David Goldfein


Senator Leahy: Thank you Mr. Chairman, and I am glad to see the Senate Appropriations Committee going back to the old way of actually getting things scheduled and done and Secretary Wilson and General Goldfein it’s good to see you both.

We don’t have “Maine-iacs” but I’ll talk about the Green Mountain Boys. You know Madame Secretary we are proud, as I’ve told you many times, of our Air National Guard.  They do make a lot of sacrifices to serve our nation.  One of the finest units in the total Air Force and after an extensive and a competitive review, the Air Force selected the Vermont Air Guard to be the first Guard unit to operate the F-35A and they’ll operate it out of Burlington, Vermont.  And one thing I’ve always been proud of from the time I was a college student there, was watching how the Guard has worked with the community to integrate what they do, and they’ll continue to do it.  I’m concerned that a group has circulated some misinformation in Vermont, so let me ask a couple questions just to clarify the public record.

Is it not correct that the Air Force selected the Vermont Air National Guard for basing the first F-35As after the Air Force’s own extensive basing evaluation process?

Secretary Wilson: So that’s correct. It’s the third unit to get the F-35 and the first National Guard unit after a national look and a narrowing down of appropriate bases for them?

Senator Leahy: Thank you. And the Vermont Air Guard currently flies F-16s.  General, I’ve flown in a couple of the rare two-seaters in the F-16s and I know exactly what you’re saying about trying to turn around.  It’s known for its excellent maintenance and operation records, but they’re nearing the end of their service life and some have claimed that if they go, there will be another mission for the Vermont Air Guard other than F-35 basing.  That’s not a fact, is it?

Secretary Wilson: No sir, it’s not.  In fact the United States Air Force has gone since 1991 from 134 fighter squadrons down to only 56.  And as Senator Udall knows all too well, there are now states that do not have flying missions.  If the F-35s don’t go to Vermont, the F-16s will eventually age out, and it’s highly likely that Vermont will no longer have a flying mission for its Guard.

Senator Leahy: Why thank you Madame Secretary and I want you to know how proud I am of both the Air and Army Guard in Vermont, they’ve always responded.  I want to ask you something, and we discussed about this yesterday, and I was intrigued by your answer.  In your recent Air Warfare Symposium speech, you said “it’s time to take risks, it’s time to productively fail.”  I found that intriguing, would you speak to that a little bit?

Secretary Wilson: Senator, when I say productively fail, I used to be president of a science and engineering university and I found that our freshman students, you know A and B students out of high school, really hard working, they are always afraid to fail.  And as engineers they need to learn how to productively fail.  And so I’d give them examples.  For example, you know why WD-40 is called WD-40?  Because the first 39 versions didn’t work.  And so it’s about finding what doesn’t work sometimes.  And you think about WD-40.  Four out of every five homes in America have a can of WD-40 and it was initially developed as a coating for the Atlas missile to prevent corrosion but it took a guy named Norm Larson 40 tries to get the right formula to make it work.  And so it’s about learning as you prototype and experiment and not thinking about a test failure as a failure.  It’s just one more step where you’re learning to figure out the path to success and so that’s what I mean by productive failure.

Senator Leahy:  I was intrigued by it and went back and reread last night your speech and I think we could put that in a whole lot of areas but obviously, being cutting edge in the Air Force, you’re going to have things that don’t work the first time, and you got to be willing to go ahead with it.  And I’m glad to see you include funding in the FY19 budget request for initial production of the HH-60W, the combat rescue helicopter, something I supported early on.  Can you explain to the committee the need for this, either you or General Goldfein, whoever you like, and how that might be used in combat missions.

General Goldfein: Yes sir, and as an Air Force we actually own the mission to be able to fight our way in to a hot landing zone, fight our way in against an enemy and pick up a wounded soldier, sailor or airman, marine at the point of injury.  And so the combat rescue helicopter allows us to do that mission.  And not only is it for us, but it is also for our allies and partners, because they know and we have demonstrated this to them before, that if they go in and they find themselves on the ground out of an airplane that they’ve bailed out of, that we’re not going to stop at anything to come and get them.  And I have personal experience with that, having been rescued myself back in 1999 and I tell you one of the best sights you’ll ever see when you’re behind enemy lines is that combat rescue helicopter coming to pick you up.

Senator Leahy:  The head of my Vermont office was in the Army during Vietnam and he tells about when they crashed behind enemy lines, surrounded in the jungles by the enemy, how good it felt when that rescue came in.

Mr. Chairman, thank you very much.  Madame Secretary thank you.  And again, I was intrigued by that speech.  I hope a lot of people read it.  General, I appreciate your comments.

Source: Leahy. 5.17.2018