Pentagon eyes Vt. for missile interceptor site
By Neal P. Goswami
VERMONT PRESS BUREAU
MONTPELIER — The Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Jericho has been selected as one of five potential sites by the Pentagon for a missile defense battery, despite strong objections to the program from Vermont’s congressional delegation.
Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Democrat and the most senior member of the Senate’s Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, was informed Thursday that the Vermont site was chosen a potential Ground-based Midcourse Interceptor East Coast location, according to Leahy spokesman David Carle.
The missile shield system consists of ground-based interceptor missiles and radar to intercept incoming warheads.
Other possible sites announced Thursday are located at Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center in Ohio, NAS Portsmouth SERE Training Area in Maine, Fort Custer CTC in Michigan and Fort Drum in New York.
The Pentagon is studying possible new locations for the missile shield system to determine their suitability as future interceptor deployment sites, Vice Admiral James D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, wrote in a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, which his office released Thursday morning.
Members of Vermont’s congressional delegation reacted strongly to the announcement that the Vermont National Guard training facility was selected.
“I’ve always felt that the multiple billions spent on missile defense are a monumental waste of money, on technologically challenged systems, and I am emphatically against putting one of these sites in Vermont,” Leahy said.
Democratic Rep. Peter Welch went even further, giving the Vermont site no chance of being selected.
“This is absurd. It’s the wrong location for a bad idea and dead on arrival,” he said.
Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent, said he, too, doubts that Vermont will ever serve as a missile defense site.
“My first impression is that this is a very bad idea and, for a wide variety of reasons, I do not believe that it will ever happen,” Sanders said.
Carle said neither Congress nor the Pentagon have made a decision on whether any additional interceptor sites will be deployed in the U.S, nor is there any money appropriated for a new site.
“Based on the fiscal 2013 defense authorizing law, the Pentagon is required to conduct a study to validate or invalidate the requirement for an East Coast ballistic missile defense location, and part of that study, which will be completed before the end of this year, will be to identify the possible locations for consideration under an Environmental Impact Study if the basic requirement for a site is validated,” Carle wrote in an email. “By virtue of this announcement, Camp Ethan Allen may, or may not, be included in that list of locations for further study under an EIS.”
According to Syring’s letter, the Missile Defense Agency will contact each site as part of a data gathering process for the study that will assess potential interceptor sites. The sites will then be reassessed to determine suitable locations for further consideration, including on-site visits.