By George Plumb

This week, the Vermont Chamber of Commerce held a virtual Annual Manufacturing Supply Chain Summit. The conference focused on “opportunities for suppliers in advanced manufacturing for aerospace defense, government, ship building and space”

A representative of Lockheed Martin was scheduled to be the opening speaker at the conference. Some of the other almost twenty defense industry giants who will be participating in the conference include Raytheon Technologies, Rolls-Royce Defense North America, Boeing Company, and Colt Manufacturing.

The summit was not honestly represented by the Chamber of Commerce or UVM President Garimella, who plays a critical role in creating partnerships between Vermont manufacturers, the defense industry, the federal government and the university. In his former position at Purdue University, such networking was a key responsibility for Garimella. Currently, he is trying to reorient the UVM curriculum towards STEM courses, which can help train students for defense jobs.

The conference was clearly very defense and militarily oriented. With military conflicts going on all over the world, instead of doing things that increase tensions we should be working on ways to bring peace. We are witnessing increased violent conflict even here in the peaceful state of Vermont.

We had a record 103 murders in 2020. When I moved here in the 1950s, murders were very rare and only one or two people a year died by gun violence from others.

The U.S. defense industry is also a very significant contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. A machine powered to keep the world safer paradoxically increases the dangers of climate change. The Army, the Navy, and the Marines, and the military remain the single largest consumer of fossil fuels on the planet, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Many nations have suffered greatly because of our defense industry. Our 20 years in Afghanistan, is just one example of the tremendous suffering we have brought to other countries. Thankfully our leadership has finally chosen to bring the military home from that conflict. Our war in Afghanistan is the longest war in U.S. history.

Vermont is also suffering from supporting the defense industry. Basing the F-35s at the Burlington Airport creates stress for the people of Winooski as they are forced to listen to the take-off and landings of the jet planes.

The F-35s also had safety concerns because if an emergency landing took place and the runways were wet, the length of the runway was too short and, under the right circumstances, could result in a catastrophic accident. The Air Force also found there was no strategic reason to base the F-35s in Vermont. The decision came down to the close relationship between Sen. Patrick Leahy and the Secretary of the Air Force.

We know Leahy, Bernie Sanders, Peter Welch, and Phil Scott fully supported the F-35s. We also know from public records that the Air Force did not originally want F-35s in Vermont, but our Vermont elected officials led by Leahy forced this decision.

We are reminded every time we hear the F-35s take off from Burlington Airport that our elected officials lied about the environmental impact. The people of Winooski and Vermonters suffer every time we hear an F-35 takeoff. We not only suffer from noise pollution but are reminded that the defense department, military, and now UVM have other plans for the Vermont economy, and it is not peaceful or green.

Vermont has a culture of supporting peace, caring for nature, and looking out for our neighbors. Adding more defense industry jobs will negatively impact this culture. We need to think outside of the box and use creativity and Imagination. A Green Economy is around the corner. Vermont should be ready to take advantage of the opportunities emerging for this new economy.

We need to invest in a future that will encourage our children and those entering the workforce to stay in Vermont. In my view, this should be a primary responsibility of UVM through education, local partnerships, and the creation and support of the green jobs of the future. Vermont has the potential to lead the country toward a green and sustainable economic model.

George Plumb lives in Washington.

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