PARIS TOWNSHIP- Sen. Rob Portman exulted the possibility of locating a missile defense base at the Ohio National Guard's Camp Ravenna during a stop at the facility on Tuesday.
If chosen by the Defense Department's Missile Defense Agency, the site would be home to an interceptor base designed to shoot down ballistic missiles in mid-flight. Current concerns for added defense include threats from North Korea and a growing threat from Iran.
"We think that the base could bring in a few hundred people here to operate the missile site," Portman said, standing outside the base.
Tribune Chronicle / Margaret Thompson
Sen. Rob Portman stands outside Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center on Tuesday discussing his support for housing a missile interceptor base there.
He said the possibility has been met with guarded optimism and he wants to be sure it is right for the community. The senator recognized common concern that having a missile defense base in Ravenna might make it a target for attack but he also noted that "it would be a place able to defend itself."
While no decision has been made to build the system, the Pentagon is required to study the possible East Coast locations.
"The National Guard members think it is important to protect the country from the unfortunate proliferation of missile offense," Portman said.
Ravenna rivals Vermont's Camp Ethan Allen; NAS Portsmouth SERE Training Area, Maine; Fort Custer CTC, Mich., and Fort Drum, N.Y.
Portman noted three main reasons why he believes Ravenna would be the best choice of the five:
"We've got a few things going for us. One, we've got a lot of land here. More land than four of the other sites, as I've done the research, over 20,000 acres here.
''Second, we happen to be in an area with a lot of great infrastructure to help. Some of the other sites happen to be in areas that are a lot more remote. They don't have the manufacturing expertise that we have, they don't have the research capabilities we do. They don't have the roads and other infrastructure, the rail and so on.
''And then third the mission here which is very important, which is a training mission for the National Guard, could continue. In other words, they don't need all this property, they need some of it."
Portman is not the only state official angling for the site. Sen. Sherrod Brown and Rep. Timothy J. Ryan previously expressed their support of locating the missile defense base in Ravenna.
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 it is chosen, the new transformation would not be a quick one. No less than three finalists will be chosen by the end of December and then a year long investigation and analysis of the sites will take place before making the ultimate decision.
Funds still remain to be allocated for the project which Portman said will cost about $3 billion and five to six years to construct. There currently are two defense sites on the West Coast located in Alaska and California with 10 and 30 missiles, respectively. It is unknown how many missiles would be housed at the East Coast location.