Congress, worried about Iran's efforts to develop intercontinental
ballistic missiles, is urging the Pentagon to commit to an East
Coast site. Defense officials say current interceptors on the West
Coast can defend the country against possible missile attacks, and
an extra interceptor site would add enormous costs to a military
budget already under pressure.
Still, Pentagon officials are proceeding with the environmental
impact study required under a directive in the 2013 defense
authorization bill. In a statement issued Friday, the department
said it would take about two years to complete a comprehensive
environmental impact study, which will look at potential impacts to
land use, water resources, air quality, transportation,
socioeconomics and other factors.
The four sites are Fort Drum, New York; SERE Training Area at Naval
Air Station, Portsmouth, Maine; Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center
in Ohio; and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.
A fifth possible site — Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont
that had been identified in September — was dropped from the list of
sites to be studied further. It was not immediately clear why it was
U.S. lawmakers, worried about the ability of West Coast missile
defense sites to protect against all possible missile threats, have
pressed the Pentagon to consider adding sites in the eastern half of
The 2013 defense authorization law required U.S. officials to
identify three possible interceptor sites, including at least two on
the East Coast.
Senator Kelly Ayotte, a Republican from New Hampshire, said
selection of the four sites marked an important step forward, but
urged the Obama administration to speed up work on the environmental
impact statement (EIS), given Iran's reported continued work to
develop long-range missiles.
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"In light of the fact that Iran may have an intercontinental
ballistic missile (ICBM) capable of striking the continental United
States as early as next year, I call on the administration to
expedite the EIS and move without delay to build a missile defense
interceptor site on the east coast of the United States," she said
in a statement.
Riki Ellison with the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance,
said the United States faced other more pressing missile defense
needs than creation of a new interceptor site, including a redesign
of the part of the rocket that is used to hit enemy missiles and
destroy them on impact.
The Pentagon's chief weapons tester recommended work on a new "kill
vehicle" in a report this week.
Kingston Reif, with the nonprofit Center for Arms Control and
Non-Proliferation, noted that the Congressional Budget Office had
estimated that it would cost about $3.5 billion over the next five
years to build a third interceptor site.
"This is money the Pentagon does not have and does not want to use
for this purpose," he said.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal-Esa; editing by Ken Wills)
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