I have lived on Lopez Island for 50-plus years. Since that time the population of the area has grown many fold. In example the Mount Vernon population has grown approximately 4 3/4 times since 1968. For all of those years, Naval Air Station Whidbey was a source of noise from the jets practicing carrier landings and the like. Since then the base has expanded to several times the number of jets it supports. The Prowler jets that preceded the current Growler jets were far fewer and made far less noise. It has become a poor fit in this almost urban area and should be moved to an area that will impact far fewer people. NAS Whidbey used to be a fairly good neighbor, but at a well-attended meeting on Lopez three years ago, the base captain, when asked about the panes jettisoning fuel in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, replied, “The seals on Smith Island don’t seem to mind.” The Navy stated the proposed addition of 36 more Growlers and the projected increase of 300 percent in training flights is not a significant impact on the area.
The whole “defense” establishment has expanded explosively in recent years. The United States allocation of funds was 602 billion in 2017. America now spends more on defense than the next seven biggest spenders’ military budgets combined (2015 stat). Our Navy happily finds ways to deal with the taxpayers’ largess. It is now using Washington State parks for Navy Seal covert operations practice. It is experimenting with new long-range sonar to the detriment of our off-shore whales and other marine life. It is using Olympic National Park as a new search and destroys target area for the $68-million Prowler jets. That’s quite a blow to a National Park that “used to be” referred to as the quietest in the nation.
I wonder how large a military budget would be reasonable? I expect many people would say, “Whatever the powers that be think appropriate.” I feel we are way beyond the “appropriate!” I think that using one-third of the annual military budget for Medicare for all and free college would yield a much greater benefit to the average taxpayer. Would we still be safe? At the Trident Submarine Base in Hood Canal, we host 14 Trident subs. These subs carry 24 missiles, each of which can MIRV into 17 70 kiloton nuclear warheads. That’s 408 total per sub! The bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were 20 kilotons and 14 kilotons by comparison. In other words, just one of these subs could destroy the world as we know it. Our military strategy is called “massive overkill.” Are we safe yet? Should we be changing priorities? Can we get our government to wean the Military Industrial Complex to get more real benefit from our tax dollars?