| WASHINGTON, Sept 12
WASHINGTON, Sept 12 The Pentagon announced five
possible missile defense sites in the eastern United States on
Thursday, but said it was far from any decision about whether to
proceed with what would be an "extraordinarily expensive"
program expansion in an era of budget cuts.
The possible new sites announced Thursday are Fort Drum, New
York; Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont; SERE Training
Area at Naval Air Station Portsmouth, Maine; Camp Ravenna Joint
Training Center in Ohio; and Fort Custer Training Center in
Madelyn Creedon, assistant secretary of defense for global
strategic affairs, emphasized that no decision had been made to
build an additional site for missile interceptors, and there was
no money in the Pentagon's future budget plans for such a site.
In fact, she said, U.S. military officials were concerned
whether across-the-board budget cuts would jeopardize the
Pentagon's plans to add interceptors to an existing Alaska site,
a move announced by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel after North
Korea threatened to launch a nuclear attack against the United
"There's no money in the (future) budget ... for an East
Coast missile site. We have no money for this," Creedon told
Reuters in a telephone interview.
"When you look at the future and sequestration, we get very
worried about whether or not we're even going to have enough
money to do what we've decided to do," she said.
Current U.S. law calls for the Pentagon to cut its projected
spending by $500 billion over the next decade, on top of $487
billion in cuts already planned for roughly the same period.
Creedon said building an additional interceptor site would
be "extraordinarily expensive," but detailed estimates would not
be known until a specific site was chosen.
Missile defense experts say it would cost well over $1
billion, and possibly as much as $5 billion to build an
Boeing Co manages the Pentagon's existing program to
deal with long-range missile threats, while Raytheon Co
and Orbital Sciences Corp build the interceptors and
rockets. It is not yet known which contractors would be involved
in construction of any new site.
Creedon did not comment directly when asked if sequestration
budget cuts would force the Pentagon to scale back its plan to
add 14 interceptors to the current site in Fort Greely, Alaska,
a projected estimated to cost around $1 billion. She said only
that sequestration was "a huge problem across the department."
Senior U.S. defense officials said they remained confident
that the United States was already well protected against
possible missile attacks from North Korea by the two existing
missile interceptor sites, one in California and that in Alaska,
where the Pentagon plans to add 14 more interceptors by 2017.
The naming of the possible new sites on the East Coast comes
as a result of pressure from Congress, which has been concerned
about the ability of the West Coast sites to protect against all
possible missile threats, especially if Iran develops the
capability to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles.
Lawmakers added a measure to the 2013 defense authorization
law requiring the Pentagon to identify three possible places for
an additional interceptor site, including at least two on the
Pentagon officials say an additional site is not needed,
although Vice Admiral James Syring, director of the Missile
Defense Agency, said a site in the eastern United States "would
help with Iran."
Creedon said the Pentagon was complying with the law despite
its reservations, and had spent the past months using publicly
available data to whittle down a list of 450 federally owned
sites, first to 10, and now to five.
All of the sites are on federal land, operated by the
Defense Department, the National Guard, or both, officials said.
Creedon said the department hoped to meet the
congressionally mandated deadline of Dec. 31 for deciding which
of the five sites would be included in a more comprehensive
environmental impact study expected to take 18-24 months.
She said the discussion about whether to proceed with an
additional missile defense site would not kick off in earnest
for about two years - after the environmental study was done.