By Aki Soga, Free Press Editorial Page Editor
In the current F-35 debate, the biggest concern is that the final basing decision could be made before relevant information is made available to the public.
The Vermont Air National Guard base at Burlington International Airport is the preferred site for the Air Force’s next-generation fighter-bomber replacing the current flight of F-16s.
As the Air Force makes a final basing decision, the process must be as open as possible for an action that will have a major impact on the lives of people living and working in Chittenden County and beyond.
The latest draft of the Environmental Impact Statement released on Friday sheds little additional light on how the final decision will be made.
Local opposition to the F-35 centers on the impact the jets’ noise would have on the quality of life and property values in affected neighborhoods.
Other objections range from the ballooning cost of the project at a time of growing federal debt and environmental concerns, to questions about the design and capabilities of the plane and a basic opposition to a war machine.
Vermonters, as all Americans, must understand and care about how Washington spends our tax dollars.
the Pentagon, which has a on-going record of waste and abuse in the defense procurement process — remember the $1,800 toilet seat cover?
Proponents of the F-35 say they fear for the future of the Vermont Air National Guard, should they fail to win the next-generation plans.
There is little doubt that a strong and vibrant Guard presence would be good for the airport and for the region’s economy.
The Air National Guard F-16s are linked millions of dollars in direct payrolls as well as contracted services, and help shoulder the cost of the civilian portion of the airport.
A first-rate regional airport is of critical importance to the state’s economy, as are the estimated 1,000 jobs the F-35 would help keep in the region.
Both sides raise valid areas for concern, well worth investigating. But the immediate issue for Vermonters is the decision-making process.
Unfortunately, much of the arguments on both sides are based on faith and conjecture because there is little concrete information available. From the outside, the selection process appears to be designed to make it difficult to build a case against a decision by the Air Force.
While the public may have no formal role in the decision, information must be made available to the people of the communities who will have to live with the consequences of living with or without the F-35 jets.