In September, the Defense Department announced that Fort Drum is one of five possible locations to host new missiles that would seek to intercept future enemy missiles aimed at the East Coast.
U.S. Rep. Bill Owens, whos district includes Fort Drum, and Sen. Chuck Schumer, both Democrats, say that if a new missile defense site is needed, it should be at Fort Drum.
Both cite the potential for thousands of new jobs.
But upstate New Yorkers would be wise to look before they leap.
As your neighbors in Vermont know, this dog wont hunt.
Vermont, also a finalist, has no interest in the new missiles. U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D) said that Ive always felt that the multiple billions spent on missile defense are a monumental waste of money, on technologically challenged systems, and I am empathetically against putting one of these sites in Vermont.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I), Rep. Peter Welch (D) and Gov. Peter Shumlin (D) have all come out against the project.
Still, some New Yorkers might say, Thats fine for Vermont.
But if federal money is to be spent, it might as well be spent in my state. What New Yorkers might not realize is that this new missile site is highly unlikely to ever be built.
As Sen. Sanders put it, I do not believe that it will ever happen.
If your representatives in Washington are spending time on this, they are already wasting your tax dollars. Heres why:
1. The Pentagon does not want it.
Madelyn Creedon, an assistant secretary of defense, said in September that no decision had been made to build a new site for missile interceptors, and there was no money in the Pentagons budget to do so.
When you look at the future and sequestration, we get very worried about whether or not were even going to have enough money to do what weve decided to do, she said, adding that an additional interceptor site would be extraordinarily expensive.
2. There is no threat to justify it.
Congressional Republicans have been pushing for a new missile defense site to combat a non-existent long-range missile threat from Iran.
According to U.S. intelligence assessments, Iran might test a missile capable of reaching the United States as early as 2015 if other countries provide assistance. However, no one is known to be helping Iran, and it has never flight-tested a long-range ballistic missile.
3. The United States already has two missile interceptor sites. If Iran ever develops a long-range ballistic missile, the East Coast is already covered by the ground-based interceptor sites in California and Alaska.
In fact, the administration announced in March that it would deploy an additional 14 missile interceptors by 2017, adding to the 30 already there.
Creedon has said those interceptors would protect against North Korea as well as anything from Iran, should a threat develop.
4. New technology would be needed. To field a new site soon, the Pentagon would have to use the same technology now deployed on the West Coast.
But the existing technology needs to be scrapped, not replicated.
The GBI has failed all its key tests since 2008, with two failures in 2010 and another in June.
According to a 2012 National Academy of Sciences report, the system has serious shortcomings.
The report recommends replacing the GBI system with an entirely new technology, which could take a decade or more and billions of dollars to develop.
Finally, if against all odds the site somehow gets built at Fort Drum, the economic impact would be minimal.
According to a study published by the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Boeing, the construction of the missile site at Fort Greenly, Alaska, only created 716 direct and indirect jobs, far less than the thousands being predicted.
Most were temporary.
Congress owes it to New Yorkers to recognize the technical and budgetary realities of this project. Given the rapidly declining defense budget, the Pentagon cannot even afford to buy the weapons it wants much less those it does not.
Forcing the Defense Department to buy weapons it doesnt need will lead to cuts to programs that we all want, like body armor for troops. New York would be smart not to gamble on the East Coast missile defense scheme.
Timothy Farnsworth is program associate, and Tom Z. Collina is research director at the nonpartisan Arms Control Association in Washington, D.C. Farnsworth is a former resident of the Watertown area, whose parents settled in Harrisville after being stationed at Fort Drum from 1998 to 2008.