Rep. Francesca Hong addresses concerns for the arrival of F-35 jets in Truax Field, surrounded by Eken Park Resistance members. CAMERON CIESZKI/CAP TIMES
One goal of this letter is to bring organizations on the national and international level together with local organizations who have been working against F-35 training in their communities for years. Another is to use the F-35, the most expensive weapons program in history, to address the larger issue of unchecked military spending. The F-35 is causing harm at home and abroad in primarily working class and BIPOC neighborhoods. We hope to begin a substantial and sustained campaign to cancel the F-35 program.
President Biden & Members of Congress,
We, the undersigned organizations from around the world, are calling for a cancellation of the F-35 program, an end to F-35 training in residential areas like South Burlington, Vermont and Madison, Wisconsin, and a reinvestment of the project’s funds to life affirming programs. We are making these demands based on the harm caused abroad, cost of the program to the taxpayer, inefficiencies and failures, the environmental impact of F-35s, and the effects training has on local communities.
HARM CAUSED THROUGH MILITARISM
We primarily stand firmly against the F-35 as a weapon of war. Although not ready for full-scale production, the U.S. intends on producing countless F-35s to sell around the world that will without a doubt be used to harm people living in the Global South. F-35s have the capacity to carry nuclear weapons, and the deployment of these jets only aids nuclear proliferation. The U.S. already makes up 40% of the global arms trade, aiding and abetting war crimes all over the world. Israel is procuring F-35’s from the United States which will undeniably be used against Palestinians to further Israel’s goals of ethnic cleansing and displacement in Palestine. Saudi Arabia has expressed interest in F-35s as well as the UAE while both countries wage a brutal war on Yemen. The F-35 is a disaster of a project, but also a potential disaster for humanity.
INEFFICIENCIES AND FAILURES
The F-35 spending is becoming impossible for important members of Congress to justify. The Chair of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith called the F-35 a “rathole.” Another member of HASC, Rep. John Garamendi had some scathing comments about the F-35 in a HASC subcommittee hearing in May:
“For the contractors out there, what are you doing? Why can’t you give us a piece of equipment that actually works? You should never have a contract. And for Lockheed, you want a five-year maintenance contract? You can’t do what you’re doing today. Come on. What are we thinking? If I have not adequately expressed my frustration, I would assume that my frustration is less than the frustration of the pilots and the maintainers out there. … The primary maintenance responsibility on this is Lockheed and you gentlemen.”
The Government Accountability Office said the F-35 “continues to fall short of prescribed mission-capable rates and is consistently missing reliability targets”. According to the GAO, the F-35A in 2021 was fully mission capable 50% of the time, while the F-35B was fully mission capable less than 20 percent of the time. The F-35c was only capable 9.5% of the time.
The signatories call attention to the failures of the program to address harmful projects seeing never ending investment while programs that protect people such as universal healthcare never see the light of day.
COST TO THE TAXPAYER
The failures of the program make the spending impossible to justify, even from a militaristic standpoint. The F-35 program is the Department of Defense’s most expensive weapon system program. As of now, the F-35’s projected total cost is $1.7 trillion, which includes $1.3 trillion in estimated operations and sustainment over 66 years. The F-35 is horribly behind schedule, experiencing massive cost overruns with maintenance costs doubling. The F-35 is not ready for full scale production. According to the GAO, “if DOD moves forward as planned, it will have bought a third of all F-35s before determining that the aircraft is ready to move into full-rate production.” Spending billions to trillions of dollars on a plane that is not yet up to speed with what the government has requested is poor fiscal policy.
F-35s also have a significant impact on the environment with their high carbon emissions and pollution on local bases. The F-35 uses a significant amount of fuel – about 2.37 gallons of fuel for every mile traveled and around 1,340 gallons of fuel per hour. This is particularly egregious compared to the F-35’s predecessor, the F-16, which used at least 415 gallons of fuel per hour less. One single F-35 tank of gas produces the equivalent of 28 metric tons of carbon dioxide. These emissions heavily pollute air and water sources in basing locations in the U.S. and abroad. Base site construction for F-35 training in the U.S. has also disregarded the need for environmental remediation of pre-existing contaminants such as PFAS, risking further pollution of surrounding communities. F35 pollution is an environmental justice issue, as they are disproportionately tested, trained, and deployed in low-income communities of color.
These environmental impacts do not even account for the role of the plane in active combat. As they’re deployed around the world, we see Lockheed Martin’s jets subjecting communities globally to egregious noise levels, environmental contamination, and the risk of nuclear warfare. The F-35 is also a part of the U.S. strategic nuclear bomber force, possessing the capability to carry and deploy the B61-12 guided nuclear bomb. If deployed, this bomb – and all other nuclear weapons – would have catastrophic long-term environmental consequences.
EFFECT ON U.S. LOCALS
Currently, F-35 training in Vermont disrupts the lives of working-class people. The training is irregular and Vermonters go without warning of when these trainings will take place. The noise caused by the F-35 hits 115 decibels which especially hurts and injures infants and children, the elderly, and the disabled. The F-35 has 300 to 600 takeoffs and landings a month.
Let’s consider the City of Winooski, VT. More than half the city is within the US Air Force designated 5.2 mile by 1.2 mile oval-shaped F-35 noise target zone centered on the runway. Winooski is a working-class city, the most densely populated in Vermont, with the state’s most ethnic diversity. As reported by the US Air Force itself in 2013, repeated exposure to military aircraft noise at the level of the F-35, can damage hearing. The Air Force also reported that the much lower aircraft noise level produced by civilian aircraft was still sufficient to impair the learning and cognitive development of children living in the flight path of heavily used commercial airports. The US Air Force identified the entire oval-shaped noise target zone as an area “generally considered unsuitable for residential use.” So it was no secret for the state’s political and military leaders that locating the F-35 at BTV would cause pain and injury to children and adults on a mass scale.
In Madison, where the F-35 is likely to deploy in the next few years, Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin has identified the following risks to children from noise and air pollution:
• Preterm or low birth weights
• Delayed speech development
• Hearing loss
• Interference with concentration, long term memory, reading and math comprehension.
In addition, adults as well as children would face increased risk of:
• Stress hormones that cause sleep disturbances
• Heart disease
For all the aforementioned reasons, we, the undersigned organizations, reject the government’s reckless over investment in the F-35 program and demand its immediate cancellation. The costs of this program to the taxpayer, the environment, local communities, and the communities upon which the US and its allies will wage war are too high to justify. It is time for the government to prioritize the welfare of human beings and the planet over military superiority and the weapons industry’s profits.
We call on our policy makers to cancel the F-35 program, cancel training within the U.S. and reinvest that money into universal healthcare, student debt forgiveness, housing guarantees and more.
Anti-Imperialist Action Committee
Association of Concerned Africa Scholars (USA)
Baltimore Nonviolence Center
Ban Killer Drones.org
Casa Baltimore Limay
Citizens Against Nuclear Bombers
Community Organizing Center
Demilitarize Western Massachusetts
Earth care not warfare
Eisenhower Media Network
El Centro de la Raza
Family Farm Defenders
FCNL Lansing Area Advocacy Team
Feel The Bern San Fernando Valley Democratic Club
Feminist Foreign Policy Project
Food Not Bombs
Foreign Policy Team, Progressive Democrats of America
Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
Historians for Peace and Democracy
Institute for Policy Studies, New Internationalism Project
Interfaith Peace Working Group
Iowa Peace Network
Justice and Peace Team, Edgewood United Church, East Lansing, MI
Kairos Center for Religions, Rights and Social Justice
Kalamazoo nonviolent opponents of war
Kickapoo Peace Circle
L.I.Alliance for Peaceful Alternatives
Lansing Area Peace Education Center
Lauren Faith Smith Ministry for Nonviolence
Linda and Gene Farley Center for Peace, Justice & Sustainabiility
Madison Environmental Justice Organization
Madison-Rafah Sister City Project
Maine Veterans For Peace
Minnesota Peace Project
National Priorites Project at the Institute for Policy Studies
No More Bombs
Our Wisconsin Revolution
Pax Christi Lansing
Pax Christi USA
Peace Action Bay Ridge
Peace Action of Michigan
Peace Action of San Mateo County
Peace, Justice, Sustainability NOW!
People for Peace & Security
Physicians for Social Responsibility Wisconsin
Racine (WI) Coalition for Peace & Justice
ReThinking Foreign Policy
Rooms for PEACE
Safe Skies Clean Water Wisconsin
Seattle Anti-War Coalition
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas – Justice Team
Spokane Veterans For Peace #035
STEM Strikes for Peace
Stop the War Coalition (UK)
The Center for International Policy (CIP)
The Herd of Northern Vermonters
Transformative Wealth Management, LLC
U.S. Labor Against Racism and War
Veterans For Peace
Veterans For Peace Chapter 27
Veterans For Peace Golden Rule Project
Veterans For Peace Jon Miles Chapter 13, Tucson
Veterans For Peace Linus Pauling Chapter 132
Veterans for Peace Madison, Clarence Kailin Chapter 25
Veterans for Peace the Hector Black Chapter
Veterans for Peace Vermont
Veterans For Peace, Milwaukee Chapter 102
Veterans for Peace, North Texas
Veterans For Peace, Santa Fe NM Chapter
Victoria Peace Coalition
Washington Against Nuclear Weapons
WESPAC Foundation, Inc.
WEST SUBURBAN PEACE COALITION
Western WA FOR Seattle Chapter
Wisconsin Resources Protection Council
Women Against Military Madness
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom- Triangle Branch
World BEYOND War
World Without War
Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation