Donald Trump Loves the F-35 but the People of Vermont Do Not
February 5, 2018
William Boardman / Reader Supported News & Tyler Rogoway / The Drive
Corrupt practices are driving the Burlington City Council in a headlong campaign to force a neighboring city to host a weapon of mass destruction -- the F-35, a nuclear capable fighter-bomber. In development since 1992 (at a cost of $400 billion and counting), the trouble-plagued F-35 was first flown in 2000 and is still not reliably deployable in 2018. The F-35 can't shoot straight and has more than 200 other deficiencies. Donald Trump sees no problems: he actual (and falsely) believes the F-35 is "invisible."
Donald Trump Loves the F-35
and so does Burlington City Council
– that is the real state of the union
BURLINGTON, VT. (February 1, 2018) -- This is a story primarily about corrupt practices by the Burlington City Council, in its headlong determination to force a neighboring city to be the base for a weapon of mass destruction, the nuclear capable F-35 fighter-bomber (in development since 1992, first flown in 2000, still not reliably deployable in 2018, at a cost of $400 billion and counting).
Yes, the premise itself is corrupt: Burlington owns the airport in South Burlington, so South Burlington has no effective say in how many housing units Burlington destroys in South Burlington to meet environmental standards for imposing the quiet-shattering F-35 jet on a community that doesn't want it and won't benefit from it.
The entire "leadership" of the state of Vermont, mostly Democrats, has spent more than a decade making this atrocity happen, with widespread media complicity. And you wonder how we got Trump as President.
Opposition to basing the F-35 in a residential neighborhood is at least as old as the mindless official support, and the opposition has been much more articulate, thoughtful, and detailed. Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and Burlington native, has been enthusiastic about militarizing his hometown from the start, treating it as if it should be seen as an honorable piece of pork from the military-industrial complex.
Independent senator Bernie Sanders, like Democratic congressman Peter Welch, has hedged slightly in his support, but neither has come close to a cogently articulated position, much less opposition. Governors of both parties have been cheerleaders, especially Peter Shumlin, who took a junket to Florida to listen to an F-35 and decided it wasn't all that loud (which was shortly before he decided universal healthcare wasn't all that necessary).
Democratic mayor Miro Weinberger, a self-described person-who-builds-things, capsulizes the ostrich view of the F-35, saying, "I think this decision was made a long time ago, and I have not heard a compelling reason to reopen it." He's like everyone else in Vermont leadership who has chosen to challenge the Pentagon's Big Muddy argument ("the big fool said to press on"), regardless of how bogus Pentagon claims have become and despite their lack of compelling reasons to base the F-35 in Vermont.
After decades of falling behind schedule, the Air Force still doesn't have an F-35 ready to deploy in Vermont before September 2019, if then. With this in mind, F-35 opponents at SAVE OUR SKIES FROM THE F-35s decided to try to get the F-35 question on the ballot for the Burlington town meeting on March 6, 2018.
After drafting the petition, the SOS organizers presented it for approval as to form by the Burlington City Attorney Eileen Blackwood. Blackwood approved it. Volunteers gathered almost 3000 signatures in support of the petition, as approved by Blackwood. In the ordinary course of event, an approved petition with sufficient signatures goes on the ballot as presented.
That's true even for petitions like the one from the Burlington Anti-War Coalition in 2005 calling for Vermont to bring US forces home from Iraq:
Full Resolution: "Shall the voters of the City of Burlington advise the President and Congress that Burlington and its citizens strongly support the men and women serving in the United States Armed Forces in Iraq and believe that the best way to support them is to bring them home now?"
The city council supported this resolution, it passed in every ward in the city (as well as in 46 other Vermont towns), and it had 65.2% voter support in Burlington. That was easy in 2005, but thirteen years later, with a city council dominated by people calling themselves Progressives and Democrats, the idea of resisting the war machine became, somehow, troubling to at least three city councilors: Republican Kurt Wright, up for re-election, Independent David Hartnett, and council president Jane Knodell, a Progressive whose re-election to the council in 2013 was based in part on opposition to the F-35. She later voted against Progressive proposals to bar the F-35 from Burlington International Airport or to delay any basing decision.
A tenured professor of economics at the University of Vermont, Knodell is considered by one fellow councilor "probably the smartest person at the table." She has acknowledged a desire to be mayor.
Confronted with a resolution that they opposed, Wright, Hartnett, and the "smartest person at the table" decided to abort the democratic process, and to do it dishonestly. They decided, without getting a single citizen's signature, to put their own petition to the voters, with diametrically opposed effect.
They made the city attorney wobbly. The process could hardly have been more corrupt in its intent. None of the three councilors responded to an email inquiry asking, "What are you thinking?"
The SOS petition endorsed by almost 3000 voters is simple and direct:
"Shall we, the voters of the City of Burlington, as part of our strong support for the men and women of the Vermont National guard, and especially their mission to 'protect the citizens of Vermont,' advise the City Council to:
1) request the cancellation of the planned basing of the F-35 at Burlington International Airport, and
2) request instead low-noise-level equipment with a proven high safety record appropriate for a densely populated area?"
The SOS website offers 20 support notes and eight citations supporting the rationale of the petition. The Vermont National Guard mission – "protect the citizens of Vermont" – comes from the Guard's website. SOS argues that "citizens of Vermont" includes the people, mostly poor and/or immigrant, whose houses are being destroyed and lives disrupted for the convenience of a warplane with no relevant mission in the region.
Knodell, Wright, and Hartnett started their hatchet job by chopping out the clause about the Guard's mission protecting Vermonters. They didn't say why, just let the collateral damage lie there. They lied by adding a clause at the end, "recognizing there may not be alternate equivalent equipment," a lie of intent saved from being bold-faced by the inclusion of "may."
This is the Pentagon's position, that there is no Plan B, but that's absolutely dishonest. The only reason there's no Plan B is because the Pentagon has stalled on the issue for years. They could make a Plan B tomorrow if they so chose.
The Knodell amendment looks like a deliberate poison pill added in perfect bad faith. That impression is reinforced when you get to the preambulatory "whereas-es" the Knodell team put before the resolution to weaken it further, but enough already.
The Knodell team didn't just run afoul of honest behavior and reasonable democratic practice. Their plan to put their own resolution in place of a properly prepared one looked to be illegal as well as unconstitutional.
This set up a confrontation for the city council meeting of January 29, at which F-35 opponents were prepared to object to Knodell chicanery loudly and strongly. The outcome was an anticlimax. The council voted 10-2 (Knodell for it) to accept the SOS resolution as presented.
Only Wright and Hartnett dissented. Media coverage of the triumph of reasonable due process varied from straightforward to vaguely mocking to somewhat peevish to rather trivializing. None of the coverage talked about the attempted corruption procedure leading up to the vote, much less the corrupt cultural morass that the F-35 successfully masks with its stealth capability.
As currently assessed by the Pentagon, the F-35 can't shoot straight and has more than 200 other deficiencies, but Australia is going ahead buying 100 of them. An Australian military strategic thinker observed dryly: "It's disappointing that there's still deficiencies turning up fairly regularly in an aircraft that we're already going to get about ten years later than we originally thought."
The March 6 vote on the resolution is only advisory, so even if there is overwhelming support for an alternative to the F-35, what are the odds of such a democratic choice prevailing? This is the Trump era. He's asking for the next budget to have $716 billion in military spending, and Vermont seems to think getting some of that money is more important than anything else.
William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.
Trump Just Provided More Evidence That
He Thinks The F-35 Is Actually Invisible
Tyler Rogoway / The Drive
(November 24, 2017) -- On Thanksgiving Day, Commander In Chief Donald Trump visited US Coast Guard Lake Worth Inlet Station located nearby his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach where he is vacationing.
While there, Trump made a series of meandering remarks, which included touting his administration's accomplishments and thanking the Coast Guard members for their hard work. At one point his speech strayed into a familiar but chronically erroneous subject matter for the President -- the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The President has a long and inconsistent relationship with the F-35 program, which we have documented in detail. He went from being a vocal critic of the program to being one of its biggest cheerleaders, having proclaiming that he alone "fixed it" after negotiating down its price -- a claim that is dubious at best.
More recently, the President strayed into the F-35 realm when talking about relief efforts with Puerto Rican officials while visiting the storm ravaged island, and just as in this latest instance, for some reason he brought the program up while addressing the US Coast Guard, stating:
"Amazing job, and amazing job. So amazing that we're ordering hundreds of millions of dollars of new airplanes for the Air Force, especially the F-35. Do you like the F-35? I said how does it do it in fights, and how do they do in fights with the F-35. He says we do very well, you can't see it. Literally you can't see. It's hard to fight a plane you can't see right? But that's an expensive plane you can't see. And as you probably heard we cut the price very substantially, something other administrations would never have done, that I can tell you."
The statement was puzzling, not just because it was astonishingly off topic and inappropriate considering the setting and audience, but it doubled down on previous comments that alluded to the possibility that Trump has a very poor understanding of the aircraft's capabilities, and may even think the aircraft is actually invisible, not just low observable in terms of its radar return and low-probability of intercept electronic emissions.
But what he told the Coasties in Florida on Thursday seems to further underscore the possibility that he does indeed think the controversial jet is invisible:
"With the Air Force we're ordering a lot of planes, in particular the F-35 fighter jet, which is almost you know like an invisible fighter. I was asking the Air Force guys how good is this plane, and they said 'well sir you can't see it,' I said yeah but in a fight, you know a fight, like I watch on the movies, the fight, they're fighting, how good is it? 'Well it wins every time because the enemy cannot see it, even if it's right next to it, it can't see it.' I said that helps, that's a good thing.
"But we have equipment that nobody has the equipment that we have. It's sad when we are selling our equipment to other countries but we're not buying it ourself ok. But now that's all changed. And I said the stuff that we have is always a little better too.
"You know when we sell to other countries, even if they're allies, you never know about an ally an ally can turn, you're going to find that out. But I always say make ours a little bit better, give it that extra speed, a little bit -- keep a little bit -- keep about ten percent in the bag. Because what he have nobody has like we have, and uh that's what we're doing."
Trump's comments on weapons exports are also interesting to say the least, as they show a basic misunderstanding of export controls, including those surrounding the F-35. The F-35s being sold to America's allies have not been downgraded for export as was rumored for years as the program began to mature. Israel is the only country that will have special ability to alter the F-35's capabilities for their own needs.
In some cases other fighter aircraft and weapon systems are exported with tailored capabilities intended to reduce risk and to help keep US regional policy and balance of power in check. For instance, Iraqi F-16s were not delivered with AIM-120 capability, and Saudi Arabia received their F-15S aircraft with downgraded radar and electronic warfare capabilities.
Taiwan is maybe the best example of this, with the Obama administration banning them from buying new F-16s, so instead they had to upgrade their older F-16s to a similar standard.
In recent years, 4th generation aircraft like the F-16 and F-15, have been exported in far more potent form than older examples still serving with America's air arms.
But as far as the F-35 goes, a USAF F-35A and one delivered to the Netherlands will have the same capabilities and radar cross-section, that is unless Trump has let slip that this has changed -- something international customers won't be happy about to say the least. Regardless, having ten percent more speed is not a major tactical factor anyways.
The President has seemingly made more incorrect statements about weapon systems and their capabilities than correct ones since being inaugurated, and sometimes these factually wrong declarations have been eschewed during very high-profile and strategically impactful events. Most recently, Trump incorrectly touted America's ballistic missile defense capabilities while fielding question with Japanese Prime Minster Abe during a visiting to Japan.
The fact is America's enemies are watching and listening, and seeing a Commander in Chief that is so bombastic about a topic he clearly doesn't have much understanding of hurts American credibility. His almost child-like view of tactical aircraft capabilities in particular is also a massive blessing for US defense contractors who are in increasingly close orbit with the White House.
Someone with this level of comprehension about complex weapon systems does not represent a good negotiator or strategist when it comes to procurement decisions and setting up America's military capabilities mix. Instead they represent an easily persuadable mark with the power to make or break major defense deals worth billions of dollars. And those defense contractors are playing ball when it comes to feeding the President's ego with great results to show for it.
As I noted last May:
It is pretty clear Trump has been personally spoon-fed the F-35 brochure from LockMart and the program office. Without any point of reference, it all must seem pretty wondrous. Oh and the program he was so critical of during his campaign is now magically fixed because he made a phone call. Totally ridiculous to the point that its downright insulting. And really, nothing of this has to do with the jet itself, just a new slathering of politics that surrounds it.
To be honest, I had high hopes that Trump could spur systemic change within the DoD's procurement process. Those hopes have faded rapidly over the last three months. It seems that he is far more interested in selectively intervening in a few high-profile programs he has interest in so that he can claim fake victories and gloat about them endlessly to the press, and the defense industry is happy to oblige him if it means funding certainty and a strong order book.
As Trump would put it: "sad."
None of this would be much of an issue if Trump didn't inject himself directly into major Pentagon procurement issues or insist in talking in detail about particular weapon systems that he has a poor working knowledge of even on a conceptual level. Instead he could leave these types of statements to others and just paint in broad strategic strokes.
As for what about talking to the Coast Guard seems to trigger a Trump speech about the F-35's abilities, there is no clear answer for that.
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