Rep. Turner frustrated with delay in naming location for missile defense site

Dayton-area Congressman Mike Turner, who led an effort to create an East Coast Missile Defense site, Wednesday made it clear he’s frustrated with the prolonged delay in the announcement.

Camp Garfield, formerly the Ravenna Arsenal and Camp Ravenna in northeast Ohio, is competing with two other sites land the missile defense mission, which would supplement missile defense sites in Alaska and California and represent the only missile defense site on the eastern seaboard.

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In a March 26 letter to Acting Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan, the Ohio congressional delegation said were Ravenna selected, it would bring 2,300 construction jobs to the region and up to 850 full-time employees once the system is operational.

Turner, who is ranking member of the House Armed Service Committee’s Strategic Forces Subcommittee, said Wednesday that the wait for the decision has gone on long enough.

Turner first successfully sought language to create an East Coast Missile Defense site in 2013 as part of a bill authorizing defense program. Since then, the Defense Department has completed an environmental impact statement. A decision has been made, he said, but no one has announced it.

“You have three communities that are vying for this, two need to be let go,” Turner said during a hearing on missile defense. “Two need to be able to be told they can stand down and their communities and their chambers of commerce and everybody else who’s working to advocate for their community needs to understand that actually a decision has been made because you’ve completed all the data work necessary for that decision. It just needs to be announced.”

Ravenna is competing with Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek, Michigan, and in Fort Drum, New York, which is north of Syracuse, to host the site.

Lt. General Samuel Greaves, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said he has recommended the Defense Department announce the selected site. “I am not the decision maker,” he said, but added, “I have made the recommendation to proceed with that.” He said it’s being deliberated up through the Secretary of Defense level and “other places.”

“My hope is come to a conclusion and make a decision,” he said.

Turner said lawmakers asked on March 26 and May 1 for an announcement of the site designation. On May 1, the lawmaker asking was Youngstown-area Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Niles, whose district includes Ravenna. On that day, Shanahan promised that he would get Ryan an answer “today.”

“That day has passed,” said Turner. “To my knowledge, this promise has not yet been fulfilled either.”

He said that Congress understands that the site will not be developed until the threat is “mature.”

Turner was not the only lawmaker to express frustration with the delay.

Rep. Elise Stefanik, a New York Republican whose district represents Fort Drum, was harder on Greaves, saying Congress’ intent on the site “was very clear.”

“The Secretary of Defense sat in this very committee room and said on record under oath he intended, he had no problem and would meet our requirement to voluntarily provide that information to Congress,” she said. “Our expectation is that we will hear from the Secretary of Defense what the preferred site is.”

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