Jim Carney
and Paula Schleis

The Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center in Portage County is among five locations being considered for an anti-ballistic missile launch site.

No decision has been made to deploy the system, but the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Pentagon to conduct a study of possible East Coast locations.

If the program moves forward, the chosen site would house an undetermined number of missiles designed to intercept incoming enemy missiles. Cost estimates range from $1 billion to $5 billion, including the cost of the missiles themselves.

Formerly known as the Ravenna Arsenal, the 33.5-square-mile Camp Ravenna site was used by the Army to manufacture bombs and projectiles during World War II, and at its peak, 18,000 people worked there.

It became a National Guard training site in 1971, and currently is used to prepare for deployments and routine exercises.

Rick Lehner, a spokesman for the Missile Defense Agency, said there are no possible employment estimates available for a missile defense site.

Lehner said Ohioans should not worry about any increased missile threat if the Ravenna site is chosen.

“Interceptors would intercept a missile so far away from Ohio, the answer is no,” he said in answer to a question of whether Ohioans should worry.

“The intent is for it to intercept it long before it reaches North America.”

The interceptors, he said, are “three-stage” devices with a “kill vehicle at the front end that directly collides with an incoming warhead using kinetic energy — the energy from the collision — to destroy the incoming missile.

The interception occurs “long before it reaches the atmosphere,” he said.

There are currently two missile defense sites with long-range interceptor missiles active at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif.

Lehner said the Alaska site has 40 silos with 26 interceptor, and 14 new interceptor missiles are to be added by 2017. California has four interceptors.

The other locations under consideration are Fort Drum, N.Y.; Camp Ethan Allen Training Site, Vt., Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine, and Fort Custer Training Center, Mich.

Portage County Commissioner Tommie Jo Marsillio, when contacted Thursday afternoon, said she hadn’t heard the news.

“Often, local officials are the last to know,” she said. “In general, I do have a high level of confidence in the U.S. military as well as the Ohio National Guard. I would welcome the opportunity for our area to further contribute to our nation’s defense.”

U.S. Rep Tim Ryan, D-Niles, said he was pleased to see Ravenna on the short list.

“This would be a great opportunity for Camp Ravenna and the State of Ohio to benefit from Department of Defense investments, leading to increased employment in both the construction phase and sustaining operational employment,” he said in a release.

U.S. Senator Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said that with threats from North Korea “and the increasing threat from Iran, improving our missile defense is critical. Ohio is in a strategic geographic position for these missile defense capabilities and it’s great to see the Defense Department recognize the role Ravenna could fill. In addition to the important national security mission, such a site would bring economic development and jobs to the region.”

U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, a Democrat, said he was also encouraged by the DOD’s interest in Ravenna for “future national security missions. Should we get to a point where the department decides an additional missile defense site in the United States is needed and viable, I’m confident that Camp Ravenna will prove to be a valuable asset.”

But not all legislators were happy to see their state on the DOD’s radar.

U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., has been critical of the program and said he opposed the basing of missiles at Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho.

“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,” said Leahy, the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense.

Navy Vice Adm. James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a news release the sites are being evaluated in response to a congressional requirement.

“While a decision has not been made to build another missile defense facility in the U.S, for homeland defense, if a decision were to be made on the future to construct a new site, completing the required site study and environmental impact statement would shorten the time line required to build such a site,” he said.

An environmental impact study would take 18 to 24 months to complete once a siting study is finished, officials said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. Jim Carney can be reached at 330-996-3576 or jcarney@thebeaconjournal.com. Paula Schleis can be reached at 330-996-3741 or pschleis@ thebeaconjournal.com.