Camp Garfield Not Preferred for East Coast Missile Site

RAVENNA, Ohio — Bipartisan lobbying by economic development leaders, the state’s congressional delegation and Gov. Mike DeWine has failed to land the selection of the Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center here as the preferred location for the East Coast Missile Defense Site.

But that doesn’t mean a final decision has been made, says U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13. Namely because the U.S. Department of Defense has not decided whether the project will move forward.

DOD designated Fort Drum near Watertown, N.Y., which houses troops of the U.S. Army 10th Mountain Division, as its preferred site. In a letter to U.S. Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Service Committee, Michael Griffin, undersecretary of defense for research and engineer, said Fort Drum was selected over Camp Ravenna and the Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.

“However, since the department’s 2019 Missile Defense Review determined there is no operational requirement for an East Coast Continental Interceptor Site, the department has no intent to develop one,” Griffin wrote.

The under secretary’s letter said Fort Drum “provides the best operational coverage but is likely the most expensive option with the most environmental challenges.” Fort Custer was the “least expensive option,” he wrote. “Camp Garfield had similar environmental challenges to Fort Drum with reduced capability.”

Ryan takes that as meaning the door has not been shut tight.

“No decision has been made to build a new Continental United States Interceptor Site. Instead, the administration stated that if a decision were made to move forward, then Fort Drum in New York would be the preferred site, but only by ‘a small margin.’ The under secretary also stated that, ‘should a requirement for an East Coast CIS emerge, the decision would be re-evaluated,’ ” Ryan said. “In the meantime, I will continue to work with our local stakeholders to ensure that if and when a final decision is made, the incredible strengths of Ohio’s workforce, environmental advantages and established infrastructure are recognized.”

Vito Abbruzino, executive director of the Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, dismissed the letter announcing the decision as “highly qualified, and unrelated to an actual decision.” He pointed out that it states that there is no decision to build a site and that if a need is determined the decision on placement would be re-evaluated.

“Ohio, and the region, should not abandon this cause. We are confident that said ‘re-evaluation’ would show that much has changed in the nearly seven years since the study was commissioned, including huge environmental remediation,” he said. “Competing communities would like nothing more than for northeast Ohio to throw in the towel after  seeing this non-committal letter. That is ill advised and shortsighted.”  

James Dignan, president of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber, called the under secretary’s letter “unorthodox communication from the DOD, based upon dated information, [which] raises more questions than answers for the many stakeholders invested in Camp Garfield and the safety and security of the country. …As the coordinating entity for local and state efforts to advocate for our region, the chamber will continue to stay engaged until there is a clear decision with a clear process, using relevant and recent information, and a clear timeline to make our nation safer.”

Should the project receive final approval and Camp Garfield would be selected, it could have an economic impact of up to $4 billion, with approximately 2,000 construction jobs and significant number of permanent direct and indirect jobs, according to the office of Gov. Mike DeWine.

“While I am disappointed that Camp Garfield is not viewed as the preferred location for this potential project at this time, it is important to note that this decision was made based upon the strategic location of the site in New York for missile defense and does not reflect on the outstanding facility we have at Camp Garfield,” DeWine said in a statement.

“I will be requesting a meeting with U.S. Department of Defense officials to build upon the positive reaction Camp Garfield’s bid has generated and to investigate other options with the Department of Defense to maximize the military utility of Camp Garfield, in addition to its use as a world-class training facility,” he added.

Statements were also issued by Ohio’s U.S. senators, Rob Portman, Republican, and Sherrod Brown, Democrat.

Said Portman, “I believe that Camp Garfield is the right place to put this missile defense facility. 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. While DOD has consistently said they have no intent to develop 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. DOD should explain its abrupt change and we will press them for answers. I will continue to make the case to DOD that Camp Garfield is the location.”

Added Brown, “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. We will remain engaged with the Defense Department, leaders at Camp Garfield and local stakeholders as we press for answers and continue advocating for northeast Ohio service members.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.