Politics

Leaders to Press Defense for Decision on Missile Site

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Local and federal officials said Thursday they will keep promoting the Camp James A. Garfield Joint Military Training Center for a third continental missile interceptor site.

The U.S. Department of Defense yesterday released its long-awaited 2019 Missile Defense Review, which outlines the threat environment and “describes the policies, strategies and capabilities” that will guide its missile defense programs “to counter the expanding missile threats posed by rogue states and revisionist powers.”

The report left unresolved the question of whether to establish a proposed $3.6 billion East Coast Missile Defense Site, which would join existing continental missile interceptor sites in Alaska and California. In addition to Camp Garfield in Ravenna, Fort Drum in upstate New York and Fort Custer in southern Michigan are under consideration.

The Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission, a division of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber established to promote the region’s military assets, and federal lawmakers representing the Mahoning Valley have lobbied Washington for several months on behalf of the former Camp Ravenna as the best site for the interceptor. The project was among the key topics a local, Regional Chamber-led delegation lobbied for during a trip to Washington, D.C. last summer.

Construction of the missile defense base would create an estimated 2,300 construction jobs and bring about 850 full-time jobs, including many highly technical – and highly paid – positions.

Building a new ground-based interceptor “would add interceptor capability against the potential expansion of missile threats to the homeland, including a future Iranian ICBM capability,” according to the review. “The decision to do so, and site selection, will be informed by pertinent factors at the time, particularly emerging threat conditions.”

The report “tells us little” from an Ohio perspective, said Vito Abruzzino, EOMAC executive director. The report “makes no decision on Camp Ravenna or the Michigan or New York sites,” nor does it take any position “on whether a new site is needed or where that site would be” if the project were to be advanced.

“It could be interpreted in several ways, but there’s no definitive information. We will continue to lean forward,” Abruzzino said.

Federal lawmakers weighed in yesterday on the report’s release and the status of the missile defense base.

U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, pledged to continue to highlight the importance of Camp Garfield to the nation’s defense posture and urge the Pentagon to select it for the East Coast Missile Defense site.

“The ballistic missile threat to the United States has grown greatly in recent years, particularly as Iran has expanded its capabilities. Adding a third ground-based interceptor site would serve American interests by protecting the U.S. homeland from this threat and deterring future aggression,” he said in a statement issued by his office.

“Camp Garfield in particular provides a cost-efficient and effective location to help defend the United States from ballistic missile threats,” he continued. “Although the new Missile Defense Review does not make a final decision on a third interceptor site, I will continue to make the case to the Defense Department that Camp Garfield is the ideal location.”

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, said he looked forward to studying the missile review in more detail in the coming weeks.

“While I am disappointed that the report did not choose an east coast missile defense site at this time, I will continue to push for this facility to be located in Ravenna,” he said.

An East Coast Missile Defense Site is “more strategically important than ever,” said U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-6 Ohio.

“I agree with President Trump — the world is changing, and we can’t just simply keep pace with our adversaries. Rather, we must be out in front of them,” Johnson said. Though there was no new information about Camp Garfield in the report, Johnson said he would continue to let the Department of Defense know that the base is the best location for the missile defense site.

The office of U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, said the senator looked forward to hearing from Defense about the next steps to address where and when they might move forward with the proposed GBI interceptor site.

All four lawmakers joined other members of Ohio’s federal delegation in signing a letter urging then-Defense Secretary James Mattis to choose the site, which straddles Trumbull and Portage counties.

EOMAC already was in contact Thursday with state and federal officials to press Defense to make a decision on the site and quit punting the issue down the road, Abruzzino reported. All three sites deserve clarity on the issue.

“One thing is clear, it’s not time to give up,” he stressed. “I honestly believe at some point, the site will be absolutely necessary. Technology becomes cheaper and more readily available as time goes on. It’s a matter of time before it is a necessity to have an east coast location and Camp Garfield is perfect, and better than, all other sites.”

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