Bernie Sanders's Hypocrisy on the F-35
Things are about to get noisy in Burlington, Vermont. No, it’s not a rally for the state’s Brooklyn-born junior senator. After some pomp including a “mini air-show,” the first two of 20 F-35s have begun settling into their new home at Vermont’s Air National Guard base, located at the Burlington Airport.
The F-35s will replace a fleet of F-16s, which the Vermont Air National Guard flew for 33 years. In an interview with WCAX, a CBS-affiliated local news station, Colonel David A. Smith , Commander, 158th Fighter Wing, Vermont Air National Guard, said, “Bringing the F-35 to Vermont secures our future for decades.” According to WCAX, the Vermont Guard began lobbying for the F-35 in the mid-2000s. “When you consider significant milestones in our storied history, this one certainly rises to the top,” Smith said.
The F-35 has indeed risen to the top in terms of cost: at $1.5 trillion, it is the world’s most expensive weapons program. Earlier this year, Bloomberg reported that the F-35 jet “just got even costlier. The estimated total price for research and procurement has increased by $22 billion in current dollars adjusted for inflation, according to the Pentagon’s latest annual cost assessment of major projects.”
Despite the staggering costs, the super-stealth fighter plane is not living up to expectations. An April 2019 report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that “F-35 aircraft performance is falling short of warfighter requirements – that is, aircraft cannot perform as many missions or fly as often as required.”
Initiated by the Department of Defense in 2001, the F-35 program was designed to provide “next-generation strike fighter aircraft” for the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and Marines. The GAO found that one of the most pressing issues with the program is spare parts: “DOD has spent billions of dollars on F-35 spare parts but does not have records for all the parts it has purchased, where they are, or how much they cost.” This situation, according to the GAO, risks the ability to support an expanding fleet. The U.S. plans to buy 2,500 jets total, with 700 to be purchased by foreign military.
The Vermont 20, however, are on schedule for arrival in Burlington. While some residents have expressed enthusiasm about the F-35s, not everyone is optimistic. Citizen coalitions have been fighting the basing for five years, citing noise concerns and the possibility of the F-35s carrying nuclear arms. The F-35 is as much as four times louder than the F-16. The latest sound map of the area that will be affected by noise levels of 65 decibels or higher includes 2,640 dwelling units and an elementary school. Rosanne Greco, a retired Air Force colonel, had initially supported the F-35 basing in Burlington, her hometown. Then she read the Air Force’s environmental impact statement. She told Time, “All I had to do was read what the Air Force said about the impact it would have. The evidence was overwhelming it would have a very negative effect on close to 7,000 people.”
Concerns about what will happen in Vermont with the arrival of the F-35s echo Sen. Bernie Sanders’ statements at his 2020 presidential campaign kickoff rally earlier this year:
“Today, we say to the military-industrial-complex that we will not continue to spend $700 billion a year on the military – more than the next ten nations combined. We’re going to invest in affordable housing, we’re going to invest in public education, we’re going to invest in rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure – not more nuclear weapons and never-ending wars.”
Why not call on Sen. Sanders for help?
Bernie Sanders supports the basing of the F-35s in Vermont. He said, in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, that it would be a “major blow” if the weapons program did not come to Vermont. Referring to the Vermont National Guard, Sen. Sanders stated, “If they don’t have planes to fly, there ain’t going to be too much for them to do.”