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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. — The Air Force says it carefully sorted through 83 military bases around the country before deciding where to assign a coveted prize, the first Air National Guard squadron of F-35s, the next fighter jet in America’s arsenal.
In the end, it picked Vermont for the honor, home state of one of the National Guard’s most powerful political allies in Washington, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy.
But state pride in the award to the “Green Mountain Boys,’’ as the Vermont Air National Guard calls itself, has been clouded by the Air Force’s failure to fully take into account the thunderous noise the F-35s would generate in densely populated communities around its base at Burlington International Airport.
That failure and other flaws in its selection process are raising questions about whether the Air Force deliberately sought to reward a key friend in Congress with a squadron of advanced fighter jets for his state, and whether residents near the airfield might fall victim to Washington’s system of political spoils.
Projected sound levels around the airport are so high with the F-35s that local officials predict several thousand nearby homes would fall within a zone designated “incompatible for residential use,’’ negatively affecting the lives and property values of as many as 7,000 citizens.
A Globe examination of records, and interviews with Pentagon officials directly involved with the review, show the Air Force — in selecting Vermont over competing locations — relied on inaccurate, excessively low estimates of the impact of the jet blast on the local population.
One of the Pentagon officials said in an interview that the lengthy base-selection process was deliberately “fudged’’ by military brass so that Leahy’s home state would win.
Read more here: www.bostonglobe.com/news/nation/2013/04/13/selection-vermont-guard-base-for-jets-was-based-flawed-data-raising-questions-political-influence/pmhiPtI1BPWxwC3yK1adAL/story.html
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