WASHINGTON — The Department of Defense has no plans to develop an East Coast Missile Defense site — but if that changes, it will pick a military base in New York over Camp James A. Garfield near Ravenna, officials told Congress.
In a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey late Wednesday, Under Secretary of Defense Michael D. Griffin wrote that Fort Drum, New York, “would be the preferred” continental interceptor site in the Eastern United States. Fort Drum, Griffin said, “provides the best operational coverage, but is likely the most expensive option with the most environmental challenges.”
But the selection was the equivalent of winning a beauty pageant without the sash and tiara, Griffin made clear.
Griffin wrote that since the Defense Department’s 2019 Missile Defense Review determined “there is no operational requirement for an East Coast” site, “the Department has no intent to develop one.”
“Should a requirement for an East Coast [site] emerge, the decision would be re-evaluated and additional analysis based on updated performance, the evolving threat, and the fact-of-life changes to the ballistic missile defense system would be accomplished,” he wrote.
The selection is the culmination of a 2016 study that evaluated two potential interceptor sites at Fort Custer, Michigan, one at Camp Garfield, Ohio, and one at Fort Drum for an East Coast Missile Defense site aimed at supplementing existing sites in Alaska and California.
The Ohio delegation fought to locate the former Ravenna Arsenal site in Ohio, with lawmakers including U.S. Rep. Anthony Gonzalez, R-Rocky River, mentioning it to President Donald Trump. The delegation, in letters to defense officials arguing for the site, said it would bring 2,300 construction jobs and up to 850 full-time employees to Northeast Ohio once the system was operational.
But critics said the cost was hard to overcome: It would take an estimated $3.6 billion to get a new site up and running, according to some estimates. Critics also said the Defense Department would be better served improving its existing missile defense system instead of adding a new site.
Griffin wrote that Fort Custer was the “least expensive option,” Griffin wrote. Camp Garfield, meanwhile, “had similar environmental challenges to Fort Drum with reduced capability.”
U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, ranking member of the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, who authored the legislation to establish the site, said that “now that site selection has occurred, we need to proceed to build out this site to protect our nation.”
Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, said he thought Camp Garfield was the “right place” for the site.
“It is strategically located, meets all the criteria, and most importantly has the highly skilled, highly educated workforce necessary to build this critically important facility when it is needed,” he said.
He said while the Defense Department has “consistently said” they don’t plan to create a third missile defense site, “just last week they sent me a letter saying they had not made any decision on a preferred choice should it be necessary in the future.”
His sentiments were echoed by Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, who said, "the Defense Department made the wrong decision and we will continue to push for additional information about the selection process.
"Camp Garfield has a proven history of providing critical support to our national security and the workforce there was ready to take on this mission."