Fort Drum commander holds off giving opinion about potential missile defense site

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown (N.Y.) Daily Times | Published: June 9, 2013

FORT DRUM -- The commander of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum held off on giving an opinion when asked about locating an East Coast missile defense site on post, citing the need to wait for results of a Defense Department site study.

"I think this action demonstrates that any future decision would fully consider the impacts of the decision and that it would only be made after a thorough review of many possible courses of action," Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend said in a statement emailed to the Times on Thursday. "I believe it is prudent to reserve an opinion on any missile stationing actions until the study brings the pertinent facts to light."

The post is one of a small number of sites that have been discussed for the placement. Other mentioned areas include the former Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, and sites in Maine and New Hampshire.

The House Armed Services Committee on Wednesday night approved an amendment authorizing $140 million in new funding for developing a site, part of its version of the annual defense authorization bill that outlines $637.9 billion in spending. The bill will move to the full House of Representatives within the next week.

Though proponents of the new funding say it will help defend against future attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran, opponents have questioned the potential multibillion-dollar cost of developing and maintaining the site and the effectiveness of the missiles.

Vice Admiral James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, told lawmakers in May that the additional funding was unnecessary while the Pentagon review was underway.

On Wednesday afternoon, Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said he was told by Adm. Syring that a tentative list of 10 sites for further review could be made within the next 30 days.

Mr. Owens, who supported the funding in the committee vote, said Wednesday that he told Adm. Syring the post has the necessary resources to support the placement of missiles.

One resource that may help determine the placement is the development of a $25.9 million missile defense data terminal complex also approved in the 2013 defense authorization bill. The only other sites with terminals -- Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. -- also have missiles, though the agency has said that a terminal does not guarantee the placement of a site.

Another piece of the committee's bill with local interest is its prohibition of military officials from proposing another round of base realignment and closures. The move was supported by Mr. Owens in late May when it was proposed.

The last BRAC round took place in 2005. Military leaders have called for another round this year, a request that has received negative feedback from lawmakers, who last year rejected a similar request.



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