Ryan Touts Camp Ravenna for $3.6B Missile Defense Site

RAVENNA, Ohio – Government officials and local businesses are hoping to beat the competition to attract a lucrative, multibillion-dollar project to the state, but it’s not Amazon’s second headquarters.

The Missile Defense Agency is reviewing its options to build the $3.6-billion East Coast Missile Defense Site, which would house a Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System designed to intercept intercontinental ballistic missiles.

The three sites being considered are Fort Drum in upstate New York, Fort Custer in southern Michigan and the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center here.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13 Ohio, held a press conference at Camp Ravenna to talk about why it should be the location of the missile interceptor site.

“The research universities that are around Camp Ravenna provide a huge asset for us,” he told reporters at a press conference. (Watch our 3 Minutes With video to hear more from Ryan and Maj. Gen. John Harris.)

The size of Camp Ravenna – 21,000 acres – the base’s access to an active rail line and its proximity to the Wellsville Intermodal Facility on the Ohio River in Columbiana County also bode well for the center, he said.

Should Camp Ravenna be selected, an estimated 2,300 construction jobs would be needed to build the 1,100-acre interceptor site.

It would also bring with it about 850 full-time jobs and have an economic impact of $224 million, Ryan said.

“I think putting something like this in a community like ours, it would have a ripple effect probably all the way over to western Pennsylvania,” he said.

Maj. Gen. John Harris said one of the benefits of bringing the site to Ravenna is that it would have minimal impact on the center’s mission.

“The footprint for the interceptor site would be insignificant here on Camp Ravenna,” he said at the press conference.

Camp Ravenna is an Ohio Army National Guard training site that is undergoing infrastructure improvements to become what Harris calls a “state of the art” site.

A new $3.3 million firing range should be complete by late summer or early fall. Ravenna is also home to several training aids, devices, simulators, and simulation systems.

“We can create a virtual environment where anyone who wants to train here can go indoors and practice no-shoot scenarios, work on their basic qualifications skills without burning ammunition,” Harris said. “If they want to train tank crews we’ve got tank simulation devices, we’ve got live tanks.”

Ryan Touts Camp Ravenna for $3.6B Missile Defense Site

Still, the project is up in the air and delays are not uncommon.

The idea for an Eastern Missile Defense Site has been in the works for years and site selection for the project began in 2013.

The eastern site would be the third missile interceptor site in the U.S., following others at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

While those are ideal locations to defend against an attack from the west, Ryan said an eastern site is needed to defend from threats to the east. He said the new National Defense Strategy calls for the U.S. to focus less on counterterrorism and more on “near-peer adversaries like Russia.”

In accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act, signed by President Donald Trump in December, the Department of Defense will have 60 days to make a decision on the site’s location once the Missile Defense Agency completes its review.

When that may be remains unclear.

As recently as last month it was believed MDA would finish it’s review before the end of February, but Ryan said Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis last week ordered MDA to reopen the review and gather more information.

“I think that moves the timeline back a little bit,” Ryan said. “Whether that’s another few months or not I don’t know.”

He also admits it’s not entirely clear what they’re looking for.

“We know it’s an East Coast missile defense system. We know generally what the capabilities will be,” he said.

It’s also possible that the review could find a third site unnecessary.

Last year MDA’s director, Vice Admiral James Syring, sent a letter to Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin saying the money for the new site would be better used upgrading the country’s existing capabilities.

A page describing the project on MDA’s website states, “There currently is no expressed military requirement for an additional ground-based interceptor site.”

As for the possibility the whole project could be found unnecessary, Ryan allowed that “anything’s possible, especially with the tight constraints the budget has now.”

But he went on to say the recent budget agreement, which he voted for, puts “significant resources” into defense, and that should bode well for Camp Ravenna as well as the Youngstown Air Reserve Station in Vienna.

“We were supportive of the budget last week, on trying to get this process moving in the right direction both on the military side and the defense side,” he said. “So it’s my hope that we can check all the boxes here and hopefully land this.”

Ryan said the project is also a good way for Trump to fulfill some of the promises he campaigned on.

“We know that the president has talked long and hard throughout his campaign, and even as recently as the State of the Union, that he wants to focus on communities that have been left behind” by the rise of globalization and automation, Ryan said.

“Here’s the perfect opportunity.”

Pictured: U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan and Maj. Gen. John Harris discussed the benefits a missile defense site at Camp Ravenna would bring to the region Tuesday.

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.