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In New Report, Burlington Remains Top Choice For F-35

Burlington International Airport remains the Air Force's preferred location for the basing of the F-35 fighter jet, a Vermont National Guard spokesman said.

"I can absolutely confirm that Burlington is the preferred location [for the F-35] according to this [final] Environmental Impact Statement," Capt. Chris Gookin of the Vermont National Guard said.

A summary of the finalized study released by Senator Patrick Leahy's office Wednesday evening said there were "no substantive changes made from what was already published in the Revised Draft EIS Executive Summary disseminated to you in May 2013."

The news comes as officials prepare to release a final version of an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the F-35 in Burlington. The study analyzed the possible impacts on the airport and the surrounding environment if the fighter jet were based at Burlington International Airport.

Gookin said that while Burlington remains the preferred location, a final decision has not been made.

In an interview Tuesday, Gookin said the final version of the EIS is expected Oct. 4. That will be followed by a 30-day public comment period, after which the Secretary of the Air Force will issue a "record of decision" about the basing.

“Contextually,” Gookin said in an email, “these items are recommendations to the Secretary of the Air Force and his staff.”

Gookin said that while the final EIS will state that Burlington is the preferred location for the high-tech warplane, "that is not a record of decision to base the F-35 in Burlington."

"The takeaway," Gookin said, "is that we remain confident in the decision-making process because the decision making process - it's repeatable, it's defendable and it's transparent."

Burlington may still be chosen to base the F-35 in the future, but according to the review timetable, the soonest any such decision can be formally made is Nov. 3.

An earlier version of this story was published at 6:10 p.m. on Sept. 25 under the headline "Vt. Guard Says Air Force Hasn't Made F-35 Decision."

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