Air Force secretary reaffirms F-35 basing in Vermont

Vermont Business Magazine Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger on Thursday released a letter from US Air Force Secretary Dr Heather Wilson written in response to the Mayor’s April 9, 2018 letter (see letters below). The mayor’s letter included the City Council’s March 26, 2018, resolution requesting the Secretary of the US Air Force provide an alternative mission for the Vermont Air National Guard (VTANG) at the Burlington International Airport. This resolution was approved following a public vote in March 2018.

Secretary Wilson’s letter, which the Mayor’s Office received on May 23, 2018, responds to the central question posed by the mayor, City Council, and the voting public: Whether the Air Force could provide an alternative mission for the Vermont Air National Guard.

Secretary Wilson writes: “We expect the first F-35 aircraft to arrive in Burlington in 2019. This decision was finalized in 2013 after a 48-month review which assessed 205 locations and concluded that the Burlington International Airport was the best Air National Guard option. If that decision were to be reversed, the Vermont Air National Guard would likely lose their flying mission upon the retirement of the F-16s. The Air Force is much smaller than it was at the end of the Cold War. We have fewer bases and fewer aircraft. As a result, some states no longer have flying missions for their National Guard and the competition to secure new missions is fierce.”

Mayor Weinberger issued the following statement in response to the letter:

“I welcome Secretary Wilson’s response to Burlington, which provides clarity in two important respects. First, it signals the United States Air Force’s continued commitment to its 2013 decision to base F-35s at the Burlington International Airport. Second, it provides a strong confirmation of what many of us have long thought: reversing the F-35 basing decision at this late date would likely lead to the end of the VTANG flying mission, jeopardizing hundreds of jobs and threatening the strength of our region’s economy. This clear, decisive communication should bring some measure of resolution of this issue to the community.”

Separately, Major General Steven Cray, adjutant general, Vermont National Guard, said in response to Wilson's letter:

"The Vermont National Guard thanks Secretary Wilson for her careful review of the resolutions sent to her from Vermont. We appreciate the confirmation of the decision that was made in 2013. As we have previously stated, the men and women of the Vermont Air National Guard continue preparing for the arrival of the F35 in September of 2019. We will be ready."

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Source: Mayor. VTANG. 5.24.2018