Questions remain on cost of potential East Coast missile site, possibly at Fort Drum

By GORDON BLOCK | Watertown Daily Times, N.Y. | Published: September 16, 2013

FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Following the excitement Thursday about the selection of the post as one of five locales to be researched for the potential East Coast missile site, there were few details available on how such a placement would be paid for.

One cost estimate for the placement is $3.6 billion over a five-year period, according to a Congressional Budget Office estimate done last year.

No decision has been made by the Department of Defense about the creation of an East Coast site. If approved, the site would be in addition to missile sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Following the announcement of Fort Drum’s selection Thursday, the offices of Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, and U.S. Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., both released statements supporting the study of the post and citing the potential impact on jobs and economic growth for the region if the placement were deemed necessary by the military and Fort Drum were selected.

On Friday, the two both hinged their support on the opinion of the Department of Defense.

Mr. Owens said in a phone call that he was confident if the site were deemed necessary, the money would be found to make it a reality. He pointed out that the length of the military’s studies means a decision on a new site may be a few years away.

“We’ll have some time to find some areas that we can get the funds to make this work,” Mr. Owens said.

In addition to Fort Drum, locations listed for further study are Camp Ethan Allen, Vt.; Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, Ohio; Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE (Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape) Training Area, Maine, and Fort Custer Training Center, Mich. The five were picked from a pool of 457 sites.

Mr. Owens said the post’s selection was “very significant” based on the number of sites considered.

“As I look at the criteria they’re applying, I believe that Fort Drum outdoes all of them by yards,” he said.

Mr. Schumer, in a phone call Friday, said defending the East Coast from missile attacks is a top priority.

Members of Congress in other states with installations named in the short list have spoken out on the missile site study, including Vermont Sens. Bernie Sanders and Patrick J. Leahy, who were against it.

“I’ve always felt that the multiple billions spent on missile defense are a monumental waste of money, on technologically challenged systems, and I am emphatically against putting one of these sites in Vermont,” Sen. Leahy said in a statement.

Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said in a statement that he supports the selection of the installation in his state, and that “with the threat from North Korea, and the increasing threat from Iran, improving our missile defense is critical.”

In June, Sen. Carl E. Levin, Senate Armed Services Committee chairman, reported that he was told in a letter from Vice Adm. James D. Syring, the Missile Defense Agency’s director, that there was no “validated military requirement” to deploy an East Coast missile defense site and there are cheaper short-term alternatives for protecting the region than a new site.

Adm. Syring’s letter can be found at http://wdt.me/Zp8oCJ.


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