Staff, wire reports
The U.S. Department of Defense is considering the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, in Trumbull and Portage counties, as a possible location of a ballistic missile defense site that would help protect the East Coast from missile attacks.
The site is one of five from Ohio to Maine that were announced Thursday that will be evaluated by the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency as the possible home for an interceptor base that would be designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in mid-flight.
All five sites are on land owned by the federal government and are operated by the Defense Department or the National Guard.
No decision has been made to build the system, but the Pentagon is required to study the possible East Coast locations. Part of that study will be to identify the possible locations that would be looked at more closely.
The other possible sites are Vermont's Camp Ethan Allen; NAS Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine; Fort Custer CTC, Mich., and Fort Drum, N.Y.
While some lawmakers from Vermont's congressional delegation were skeptical of the idea after first learning of it late Thursday morning, U.S. lawmakers from Ohio seem to embrace the prospect of the ground-based system at Camp Ravenna.
''This would be a great opportunity for Camp Ravenna and the State of Ohio to benefit from the Department of Defense investments, leading to increased employment in both the construction phase and sustaining operational employment,'' said Democrat U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, a member of the powerful House Appropriations's Defense Subcommittee.
Republican U.S. Sen. Rob Portman said improving U.S. missile defense systems is critical with threats from North Korea and growing threat from Iran.
''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,'' Portman said. In addition, ''Such a site would bring economic development and jobs to the region.''
Said Democrat U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, ''I'm encouraged that the Department of Defense continues to look to Ravenna for future national security missions. Should we get to the 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.''
Camp Ravenna has gone through a substantial remake in the past several years in an effort to transform the old Ravenna Arsenal into a year-round training facility. Millions have been invested by the federal government and the Guard to rejuvenate the camp.
If constructed, an undetermined number of the missiles installed in a yet-to-be-constructed base and made ready to respond in case of a missile attack against the U.S. Cost estimates range from $1 billion to $5 billion, including the cost of the missiles themselves.
Earlier this year, two top military officers involved in missile defense told U.S. Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., there was no "validated military requirement" to build the East Coast site.
In a June letter to Levin, Vice Admiral J.D. Syring, the director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, the commander of the Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, said a better anti-missile investment would be improved sensors for other missile defense systems.
The Defense Department has been directed to create an East Coast interceptor site in response to a perceived threat from Iran. The East Coast location would complement land-based sites at Alaska's Fort Greely and California's Vandenberg Air Force Base.
A Defense Department team will visit site to obtain information on basic infrastructure, including the electrical power supply, water resources, transportation access and other areas for assessing the suitability of a potential site.
The next step will be for the Missile Defense Agency to identify three new sites where a formal Environmental Impact Statement would be conducted to identify a preferred location.