The US Military Attempts a Political Coup in Vermont to Win Support for F-35 Jet

February 27th, 2018 - by admin

William Boardman / Reader Supported News & Ashley Curtin / NationofChange & Reuters – 2018-02-27 17:59:08

US Military Intervention in Vermont Town Meeting
General misleads voters on weapon of mass destruction F-35

William Boardman / Reader Supported News

(February 26, 2018) — There was a time when pretty much every American understood that the US Constitution provides for civilian control of the military. And there was a time when Americans understood that uniformed military were not to engage in civilian politics.

Generals were free to be presidents or other high-ranking officials, but not till they were out of the military. Retired officers remain subject to a less stringent military code regarding political activity. The current president relies on several former generals, despite the five-year ban on such service, because it was waived.

Civilian control of the military is bedrock American constitutionalism. The president is the commander in chief. There is no parity, it is not a negotiated relationship — we have civilian control of the military. And most military officers have understood that the correct response to that assertion was “Yes, Sir!”

That seems to have been some time ago, back before American militarism started to spin way out of control. That was when generals knew that if they dabbled in politics, they were taking a risk. Gen. Douglas MacArthur took the risk; President Truman fired him in April 1951. MacArthur knew he was risking his career in defying his commander in chief publicly, controversially, and dishonestly. Relieved of command, he accepted the legal consequence and faded away.

Although he is a 34-year veteran of military service, Maj. Gen. Steven Cray apparently doesn’t give a fig about civilian control of the military. General Cray is Vermont’s adjutant general, elected by civilians in the Vermont legislature.

General Cray is in charge of the Vermont Air National Guard — VTANG — and he has jumped into the political arena on the issue of the F-35. And if that weren’t reckless enough, he has played politics without integrity, and in violation of Army Regulations.

According to Command Policy, Army Regulation 600-20 (revised November 2014), both Chapter 5 (section 5-3) as well as Appendix B, section B-3 (see also military publications, i.e., Maj. Matt Parsons, Fort McCoy Judge Advocate) the rule is clear: a soldier will not:

Use official authority or position to interfere with an election, affect the course of an election, solicit votes for a candidate or issue, or require or solicit political contributions from others. [emphasis added]

In General Cray’s case, the issue is ballot item #6 on the Burlington town meeting warrant, asking city voters whether or not they want the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter based in a neighboring town, at an airport owned by Burlington.

The ballot item is advisory only and will have no force of law regardless of the result. A town meeting ballot item is a quintessentially civilian matter requiring no input from the military beyond an individual’s vote.

General Cray may well know that the military has no proper role in a town vote, but he has not honored it. For whatever reason, he has inserted himself inappropriately and dishonestly into a political process, using his military authority and position to influence voters in a civilian matter.

General Cray’s action is not merely dishonorable, it is an abuse of the power of his office. And General Cray’s action is fundamentally corrupt as a result of his huge, unaddressed, obvious conflict of interest. This is not an expression of traditional American constitutionality, it is behavior deserving of reprimand.

Bad as his behavior is, the substance of General Cray’s intervention is worse. It is fundamentally dishonest. He misrepresents a difference of opinion as if it were misinformation by the other side. This appears to be a form of lying.

The preamble to the ballot item reads: “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 . . .” and it goes on to ask voters if they want the F-35 based in South Burlington or if they would prefer a quieter, less militarily aggressive mission for VTANG. [Emphasis added.]

General Cray’s opinion is that the ONLY way to “support” the Air Guard is to support the F-35 basing plan. That is his opinion and many share it. But it is only an opinion, not a fact. And General Cray’s is not the only opinion as to what constitutes “support.” That is an open question to be decided by civilian authorities.

When General Cray says that the ballot item “misleads the voter into thinking they are supporting the Air Guard,” he is not telling the truth. He cannot know what any voter thinks. He is implicitly claiming that his opinion IS the truth. He is flatly misrepresenting the ballot item.

There is a competing opinion as to what constitutes supporting the Air Guard. That different opinion is exactly what the ballot item expresses. That different opinion is that the Air Guard and Vermont are better served by a lower impact, less aggressively military mission than training pilots to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

Those two different opinions are based on different values. The choice between them should be a civilian decision. Generals will almost always lean toward the more military choice, that’s their job. Civilians are militaristic all too often, but it is their government and their choice (at least in theory).

The F-35 is a $400-plus billion boondoggle with a projected lifetime cost of more than $1 trillion. Development began in 1992, and it is more than a decade behind schedule.

The F-35 has been plagued by problems: catching fire on the ground, catching fire in mid-air, and cutting off oxygen to pilots, among the most striking. The F-35 is a warplane, a first strike weapon that can deliver nuclear weapons much larger than those used on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

General Cray would mislead people into believing that training F-35 pilots is the only mission available to VTANG, even though the Air Force said in court filings that another mission could and would be provided if necessary. General Cray is dishonest when he says, “There is no alternative mission being planned for the Vermont Air National Guard,” when he knows full well a new mission could be planned at a moment’s notice. He is stonewalling with a negotiating position he must know to be false.

General Cray’s approach to the F-35 is misleading, corrupt, and dishonest, as well as in clear violation of US Army Regulations (Chapter 5, section 3b):

5-3b. Participation in local nonpartisan political activities.

This regulation does not preclude participation in local nonpartisan political campaigns, initiatives, or referendums. A Soldier taking part in local nonpartisan political activity, however, will not —

1) Wear a uniform or use any Government property or facilities while participating.

2) Allow such participation to interfere with, or prejudice, the performance of the Soldier’s military duties.

3) Engage in conduct that in any way may imply that the Army has taken an official position on, or is otherwise involved in, the local political campaign or issue.

General Gray violated these rules when he called a press conference on a military base. General Cray wore his uniform while opposing the F-35 ballot item at a press conference at a military base. General Cray violated these rules by implying that the Army has taken an official position on the F-35 ballot item.

All that is shameful enough, but General Cray offers no honest rebuttal to those with a different opinion: that VTANG would be better supported by a mission other than learning to fly weapons of mass destruction designed to commit war crimes.

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.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work. Permission to republish is freely granted with credit and a link back to Reader Supported News.

F-35 Jet Program Budget Exceeds $406 Billion, Yet Universal Healthcare Too Costly
Ashley Curtin / NationofChange

(January 5, 2018) — While the F-35 jet program’s cost jumps to $406 billion from the original price tag of $379 billion, members of Congress continue to insist that the US is “too broke” to increase spending on programs that intend to improve education and healthcare within the country.

In an updated draft, which will be submitted to Congress this week, Lockheed Martin is asking for an additional $27 billion for the F-35 jet program budget, which is almost a 7 percent increase, according to BloomsMag.

After Donald Trump raved about his ability to form “better deals” with weapons manufacturers, the F-35 jet program is still the US’ most expensive weapons program to date, according to BloombergPolitics.

“We’re going to do some big things on the F-35 program and perhaps the F-18 program,” Trump said in a press conference last January. “And we’re going to get those costs way down, and we’re going to get the plane to be even better, and we’re going to have some competition and it’s going to be a beautiful thing. So we’ve been very very much involved.”

But the estimated increase was “largely driven” due to the longer production schedule. According to a statement by the Pentagon’s F-35 program office, the increase in cost was in “then-year” dollars and reflected the cover research, development, procurement and military construction.

“The F-35 program remains within all cost, schedule and performance thresholds and continues to make steady progress,” Vice Admiral Mat Winter, the program’s manager, said in a statement, according to BloomsbergPolitics. “The F-35 office is committed to the delivery of cost-effective war fighting capability across all areas of the program and is aggressively pursuing affordability opportunities within our three lines of effort — Development, Production, Sustainment.”

Many are concerned that throughout the lifetime of the aircraft, tax payers will spend more than a trillion dollars on the program. As this figure continues to increase, many question why universal healthcare is unattainable in so many lawmakers’ minds.

Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Fighter Jet Program
Grounded by a Shortage of Spare Parts


(October 26, 2017) — Spare parts for Lockheed Martin Corp’s stealthy F-35 fighter jets are not keeping up with demand according to a report out on Thursday from the US Government Accountability Office.

The report said “from January through August 7, 2017, F-35 aircraft were unable to fly about 22 percent of the time due to parts shortages.”

A Lockheed representative said the company is working with the F-35’s program office to understand every factor of the cost per flying hour and identify disciplined ways it can reduce the overall operations and sustainment costs of the F-35.

The shortages are expected to plague the fighter jet program for several years the report said. Partly to blame were “incomplete plans and funding that did not account for the long lead time parts.” In other instances, delays in the establishment of repair capabilities were blamed.

The US Department of Defense is maintaining more than 250 of the advanced F-35 jets and plans to triple the fleet by the end of 2021.

In February, the Pentagon made a deal for a batch of 90 of the fighter aircraft agreeing to pay below $95 million per F-35A model jet for the first time, compared with $102 million in the previous purchase.

The F-35 comes in three configurations: the A-model for the US Air Force and US allies; the B-model, which can handle short take-offs and vertical landings for the Marine Corps and British navy; and the carrier-variant F-35C jets.

Ten other nations including Australia, Denmark, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Turkey, South Korea, Britain are also customers.

Lockheed, the prime contractor, and its partners including Northrop Grumman Corp, United Technologies Corp’s Pratt & Whitney and BAE Systems Plc have been working on building a more cost-effective supply chain to fuel the production line in Fort Worth, Texas.

In all, the Pentagon expects to buy 2,457 jets.

Reporting by Mike Stone in Washington, DC; editing by Diane Craft and Marguerita Choy

Underperforming F-35 Jet Needs a Boost to Take Off

Democrats and Progressives
Push US War Machine in Vermont

William Boardman / Reader Supported News

Donald Trump loves the F-35 and so does Burlington City Council – that is the real state of the union

(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 3,000 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.

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