Wednesday March 20, 2013 | 01:59 PM

WASHINGTON – A proposal to build a missile defense system on the East Coast – and possibly in Maine – is gaining additional supporters and opponents.

The Pentagon announced last week plans to conduct environmental impact studies of two potential East Coast sites for an interceptor system designed to destroy incoming ballistic missiles. The Pentagon has not specified which sites it plans to investigate, however a report last year recommended either New York’s Fort Drum or a spot in northern Maine, likely in the Caribou-Limestone area.

On Tuesday, 19 Republican members of the House Armed Services Committee sent a letter to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel urging him to request at least $250 million in his department’s 2014 budget for a 20-inceceptor missile defense site on the East Coast, Bloomberg reported.

Republicans have been most vocal in pushing for an East Coast site, arguing it would help protect the U.S. and its allies from attacks from Iran should that nation succeed in developing long-range missiles. There are currently 30 interceptor missiles located in Alaska and California.

While the Pentagon has not named its potential sites, elected officials from Caribou and Limestone said last weekend that they believe local residents would welcome a missile defense facility. Loring Air Force Base in Limestone was a key part of the nation’s national defense for decades – serving as a home base for long-range B-52 bombers were based – until its closure in 1994.

A Maine-based organization Global Network Against Weapons and Nuclear Power in Space, meanwhile, railed against the East Coast proposal earlier this week.

“These missile defense systems have not been proven to work,” the groups coordinator, Bruce Gagnon, said in a press release. “When Obama first became president he in fact decided to de-emphasize this Boeing-led program because it had failed to effectively perform during testing.  This new decision to ramp up the ground-based mid-course interceptor program appears to be a political decision. It indicates that Boeing has secured enough Congressional support to put the program in gear once again.”

 

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Kevin Miller is Washington bureau chief for the Portland Press Herald and MaineToday Media. He has worked as a journalist in Maine for 6 ½ years, covering the environment, politics and the State House. Before arriving in Maine, he wrote about politics, government and education for newspapers in Virginia and Maryland.
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