Pentagon selects Fort Drum for missile defense site it has no plan to build

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FILE PHOTO: A Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) interceptor is launched from the Pacific Spaceport Complex Alaska during Flight Test THAAD (FTT)-18 in Kodiak, Alaska, U.S., July 11, 2017. Leah Garton/Missile Defense Agency/Handout via REUTERS

WASHINGTON – The Department of Defense would choose Fort Drum in New York as the site of an East Coast missile defense site if it decides to build one in the future, according to a Pentagon official.

But a Defense Department official told Rep. Elise Stefanik in a letter Wednesday "the department has no intent to develop one" because a study earlier this year confirmed there's no military need for a new missile defense site.


Stefanik, R-Schuylerville, has pushed the Pentagon to add a ground-based interceptor site on the East Coast, beefing up the nation's existing defenses against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

A Pentagon review of U.S. missile defense concluded in January that the existing missile defense sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California were sufficient to defend the nation.

Stefanik, whose district includes Fort Drum, about 80 miles north of Syracuse, disagreed with the decision.

Stefanik, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, included language in a defense authorization bill this month that required the Defense Department to designate an interceptor site for potential development.

The Missile Defense Agency evaluated two potential interceptor sites at Fort Custer, Michigan, one at Camp Garfield, Ohio, and one at Fort Drum as part of a 2016 study.

"At this time, and by a small margin, Fort Drum would be the preferred (interceptor site) in the eastern United States," Michael D. Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineering wrote to Stefanik in a letter she made public Wednesday night.

"Fort Drum provides the best operational coverage but is likely the most expensive option with the most environmental challenges," Griffin wrote.

Griffin did not elaborate on the environmental challenges or provide a cost estimate.

Previous studies concluded it would cost about $3.6 billion to build a new missile interceptor site. The development would create 1,450 jobs and add $220 million per year in economic value to the community that hosts the interceptor base.

Top U.S. generals in charge of missile defense have said the money should be invested to upgrade the existing interceptor sites in Alaska and California.

Contact Mark Weiner: Email | Twitter | Facebook | 571-970-3751

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