September 13, 2013

Maine land considered for missile defense site

Federal property in mountains east of Rangeley is now one of the Pentagon's five options for an interceptor facility if one is built.

By Kevin Miller kmiller@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

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click image to enlarge

In this October 2012 file photo, the guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald launches a Standard Missile-3 as apart of a joint ballistic missile defense exercise in the Pacific Ocean. The Pentagon is considering a site in the mountains of western Maine near Rangeley as a potential East Coast location for an anti-ballistic missile defense system, officials announced Thursday.

U.S. Navy Handout Photo

Collins had urged Pentagon officials to strongly consider Loring or the Limestone/Caribou area for a facility. A report released last year by The National Academies' National Research Council also recommended the Caribou area -- along with New York's Fort Drum -- as potential locations for an East Coast facility that the authors said would strengthen national defense.

"I know that it will come as a great disappointment to the people of central Aroostook County that the (Missile Defense Agency) has decided that Limestone will not be included as one of five sites it will continue to evaluate for a potential East Coast interceptor site," Collins said in a prepared statement. "The Limestone site received significant support from the Loring Development Authority and the local community."

Collins said she looks forward to connecting Defense Department officials with Franklin County residents. She said she also hopes that Limestone could be a candidate for radar sites related to missile defense.

"If an additional radar on the East Coast were funded next year or beyond, I would urge that Limestone be strongly considered because of its strategically important location," said Collins, a Caribou native who serves on the Senate Appropriations Defense Subcommittee.

There's a lively debate in Washington over whether the U.S. needs an additional interceptor missile facility, especially given the price and the technology's subpar performance in recent testing. The current system has failed to destroy its target in three tests, including one in July.

That divide was evident Thursday in the various responses to the Pentagon's announcement. While members of New York's delegation praised the inclusion of Fort Drum, Vermont's representatives were less enthused, according to statements and news reports.

"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," said Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the Senate's longest-serving member.

Congress required the Department of Defense to conduct environmental impact studies of three potential East Coast sites as part of a defense bill signed by President Obama earlier this year.

Pentagon officials have said they do not believe that an East Coast facility is needed to defend the U.S. under current circumstances. At the same time, they have acknowledged that Iran may have the capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles by 2015, before an East Coast facility could be built.

Other members of Congress and some national security experts -- including a former director of the Missile Defense Agency -- insist that an East Coast location would help shield the U.S. from threats from Iran and other hostile nations.
 

This story was updated at 9:25 a.m. Sept. 13, 2013 to correct the location of the proposed facility. The federal property in question is located east of Rangeley, not to the west as was previously stated.

 

Kevin Miller can be contacted or at 317-6256 or at:
kmiller@mainetoday.com

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