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Missile defense chief calls eastern site unnecessary

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The Missile Defense Agency’s head declared this week there is no need to deploy an eastern missile defense site and there are cheaper short-term alternatives for protecting the United States than a new location.

Fort Drum is on a short list of places for the rumored site.

“While a potential East Coast site would add operational capability, it would also come at significant materiel development and service sustainment cost,” Vice Adm. James D. Syring, the Missile Defense Agency’s director, wrote in a letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Armed Services Committee chairman.

Though the director has spoken negatively about new funding this year for a potential site, the statements, released Tuesday by Sen. Levin’s office, were his most decisive.

Adm. Syring said more effective short-term fixes would include improvements in sensor capabilities and systems to help missiles discriminate between targets and countermeasures such as decoys.

A study is underway to determine potential sites for a missile placement, taken on as a part of last year’s defense spending bill.

Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said last week Adm. Syring told him a preliminary list of 10 sites could be ready in the next 30 days.

Mr. Owens and Sen. Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., have given conditional support for new funding for the project this year. Mr. Owens has said he wants to learn Fort Drum officers’ and the community’s opinions and Sen. Schumer has said he wants to ensure the project is necessary and cost-effective.

Sen. Levin’s released statement about Adm. Syring’s statement projected the cost of developing a new missile site at close to $3 billion.

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, said last week he was waiting for the site study’s completion before giving an opinion about the placement.

Last week, the Republican-led House Armed Services Committee, arguing the site was necessary to defend against attacks from countries such as Iran, voted to commit $140 million toward the site’s development. However, the funding has faced some opposition in the Democratic-majority Senate.

Adm. Syring’s letter can be found at www.scribd.com/doc/147403686/Syring-Letter.

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