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Sen. Rob Portman thinks the Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center would make a great location for a defensive missile base. The former Army ammunition plant, now an Ohio Army National Guard training facility, is one of five sites proposed for a new Ground-based Midcourse Defense missile defense system.
Read related coverage: Ravenna arsenal on short list for potential missile interceptor site
Portman was at the camp Tuesday to meet with the Ohio National Guard to hear what the Missile Defense Agency said about the Ravenna location after a recent inspection.
"This site has a lot of advantages," Portman said, including more available space than the other contenders.
A missile base would not interfere with the Ravenna center's training mission, Portman said. The missile base would take about 1,200 acres out of the former arsenal's 20,000.
"They don't all this property. They need some of it," he said of the national guard.
The other sites being considered include Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont; SERE Training Area at Naval Air Station Portsmouth in Maine; Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan and Fort Drum in New York. The two active interceptor sites are at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
As to why missile interceptor bases are needed, Portman said, "With the threat from North Korea, and the increasing threat from Iran, improving our missile defense capabilities is critical."
The list of potential sites must be narrowed to "at least three sites" by the end of the year, Portman said. After that, selected sites will undergo environmental studies which will take an additional 18 to 24 months.
Portman said he believes the Ohio location has benefits such as nearby manufacturing and research facilities and railroads and other infrastructure. While he couldn't specify the number of jobs such a project would mean, he said it would be "an abundance" of jobs during construction and several hundred to operate the base.
But don't count on anything happening quickly.
The Congressional Budget Office has estimated such a base would cost at least $3.6 billion to build and operate in its first five years. The Pentagon has not requested any money for a new site, and the decision to build one has not been made. And more cost-effective methods of improving the nation's missile defense system have been proposed by the Missle Defense Agency.
Plus, the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is still not operational and has continued to fail key performance tests, according to critics of the system.
Following his visit to Camp Ravenna, Portman sent a letter to Vice Adm. James Syring, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency, thanking the agency for its consideration of Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center and touting the base as an ideal location for the missile base.
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Facebook: Mike Sever, Record-Courier