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Leahy Responds To F-35 'Preliminary Approval'

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Kirk Carapezza
/
VPR

Senator Patrick Leahy is responding today to a report that Vermont has already received preliminary approval to base the F-35 fighter jets, months before any official announcement from the Air Force is made public.

The Boston Globe reports that the fix is in and the Vermont National Guard has already been chosen to host the stealth fighter jets when the F-16s currently based at Burlington International Airport are phased out in the next seven years.

The Globe article quotes an anonymous Pentagon source who says Senator Leahy’s sway over the National Guard Caucus in Washington has influenced the Air Force’s decision and undermined the democratic process.

“Unfortunately Burlington was selected even before the scoring process began,” the unidentified source told the Globe. “I wish it wasn’t true, but unfortunately that is the way it is. The numbers were fudged for Burlington to come out on top. If the scoring had been done correctly Burlington would not have been rated higher.”

Leahy has repeatedly denied that charge, however, saying any suggestion that Burlington International Airport has already been selected because of his influence is incorrect.

“The Air Force selected the Vermont Guard as its preferred choice for the F-35s on the merits, based on the Vermont Air Guard’s unsurpassed record, its top-flight personnel and facilities, and its strategic location," Leahy said in a statement on Monday. "Vague, anonymous, uninformed and rehashed conspiracy theories cannot change those facts.”

South Burlington and Winooski residents have raised concerns that the most expensive weapon system in history is too loud compared to the F-16s, and they've cited the Air Force’s environmental impact statement that says the noise created by the F-35 will render hundreds of homes unsuitable for residential use.

Meanwhile at the Statehouse in Montpelier, F-35 critics are tacking their amendments to a bill that would change how the state appoints the Vermont National Guard’s Adjutant General.

Rep. George Cross, D-Winooski, and other lawmakers have proposed language that would call for a public hearing and comprehensive study prior to a final decision on basing the F-35 in Vermont.

Earlier: For Vt. Delegation, Little Political Risk In Defending F-35 Program

VPR News: Ears Open, Shumlin Says F-35 Is Not Much Louder Than F-16