Evaluations Underway for Site that Could House Missiles at Fort Drum

Fort Drum entrance sign

FORT DRUM -- Federal officials evaluating the potential of the post's land to house an East Coast missile defense site have talked with north country utility providers.

"They were looking to assess the local capabilities," said James W. Wright, chief executive officer of the Development Authority of the North Country.

Other attendees included representatives of the Missile Defense Agency, Fort Drum's garrison and National Grid.

According to Mr. Wright, the Missile Defense Agency officials running the meeting said at multiple points that their discussion was part of a process used to review all sites under consideration for a placement.

"We don't have the criteria they're using to evaluate," he said.

DANC would provide water and wastewater treatment for the potential site, along Route 3A, along with telecommunications services.

"From the authority's perspective, we've partnered with the Army for 30 years," Mr. Wright said.

Other sites competing with Fort Drum are Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, Ohio; Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine, and Fort Custer Training Center, Mich.

The site would be in addition to those at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Fort Drum's public affairs office directed comment about Monday's meeting to the Missile Defense Agency. A phone message and email sent Tuesday afternoon to the agency were not returned.

A decision about whether to place an East Coast site has drawn wide-ranging reactions from lawmakers and military officials.

Congressional Republicans have argued that the site is necessary to prevent attacks from places like North Korea and Iran.

"An East Coast Missile Defense Site would provide increased battle space, more decision time and increased reliability, and I believe Fort Drum would serve as ideal site due to its unique region and different angle of intercept," said U.S. Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro.

A potential Fort Drum site could cost $4 billion to build and create up to 600 temporary jobs and 1,800 permanent military, civilian and contractor jobs.

However, military officials, including Navy Vice Adm. James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, claim a new East Coast site is unnecessary, and that the money is better used improving the military's current sites.

The current defense bill, which faces a White House veto, includes $30 million for designing the East Coast site. It also would require the missile agency to select a preferred location for the third site within 30 days of environmental studies being published, according to Defense News.

Navy Adm. James A. Winnefeld Jr., vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in May that no decision has been made about creating a new site, and said that it would come with "significant material development and service sustainment cost." He also said the environmental impact review would be released by the middle of 2016.

Despite the pessimism from defense officials that would use the site, lawmakers from other states looking to boost their own local base's case have hyped their own bases' application.

U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said the Fort Drum site had wetlands concerns, unlike the potential site at Fort Custer.

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Military Bases Army Missiles