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Missile site

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The Defense Department is moving ahead with a study to determine the best East Coast site to place missile interceptors to bolster the nation’s defenses against long-range missile attack.

Fort Drum is one of the four locations being considered for the $3.6 billion project along with former Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, and sites in New Hampshire and Maine. The administration is moving ahead with the study as part of a broader $1 billion plan to strengthen existing interceptor sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., in reaction to hostile rhetoric from North Korean President Kim Jung-un, who has threatened a nuclear strike against the United States.

North Korea is known to be developing nuclear weapons, although there is some disagreement within the administration over whether it already has the ability to miniaturize a nuclear weapon that could be mounted atop a missile. However, the 14 interceptors that will be added to the 26 already at Fort Greely are not expected to be in place until 2017.

An East Coast site with 20 anti-missile interceptors is being pushed as defense against possible attack from Iran, which is also believed to be developing nuclear weapons despite international opposition along with the missile capability to strike the United States within a few years.

As the study commences, Fort Drum is seen as having an advantage over other sites since it has been approved as home for a $25.9 million terminal center that could help track incoming missiles. Fort Greely and Vandenberg Air Force base have the data terminals, but that cannot be taken for granted.

In support of a missile site at Fort Drum, Rep. William L. Owens said, “It makes all kinds of military sense, and it makes all kinds of economic sense.”

The missile site would strengthen Fort Drum’s role in national defense and could help keep it off any future list of base closings that might be considered. That takes on added importance as the Pentagon review moves ahead with plans to downsize the Army, which would result in the loss of 8,000 soldiers and dependents at the post.

The project will bring hundreds of well-paying jobs during construction along with additional military personnel and highly skilled support staff needed to maintain the sophisticated missile system. With a study soon to get underway, it will be up to the north country community to make the best case it can that Fort Drum should be home to a missile defense system.

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