Vermont eliminated as possible East Coast missile site

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) got his wish on a new potential East Coast missile defense site: If it’s built, it won’t be in Vermont.

The Pentagon announced Friday that bases in four states — Ohio, Michigan, New York and Maine —would receive environmental reviews for possible construction of a third U.S. missile site on the East Coast.

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The Pentagon selected the final four sites for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) out of an initial list of five in September, eliminating only Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont.

The four sites that were selected will undergo an environmental analysis that will take two years, a step that was mandated by Congress in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

After the Pentagon released the list of five possible locations in September 2013, Leahy issued a statement saying he didn’t want the interceptors housed in Vermont.

“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,” Leahy wrote in a letter to the Missile Defense Agency.

The agency apparently listened, although the Pentagon said only Friday that the four sites were selected after MDA “completed an extensive evaluation of sites announced by the Department of Defense in September 2013.”

The Pentagon has not decided to actually build the East Coast defense site, and military officials have said it is not necessary at this time.

The potential third interceptor site has been a partisan fight on the Armed Services Committee, with the Republican-led House panel passing funding to build the missile site and the Democratic-led Senate committee stripping it out.

The third site, supporters say, would defend the East Coast against potential long-range missile attacks from Iran. The military has missile defense sites in California and Alaska.

The environmental review was a compromise the committees reached in conference committee that would allow the Pentagon to study the issue further.

While Leahy said he was against housing the interceptor site in his state, other Democrats have felt differently, as a new site would also mean new jobs for whatever state is picked.

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last September that if the military decides it wants to build an East Coast missile site, it should be in New York, calling Fort Drum “uniquely capable for the job.”

“A federal investment for missile interceptors in Upstate New York could create thousands of jobs and significant revenue in local communities, just as similar missile defense systems have in California and Alaska,” Schumer said.

The possible four sites picked by the Pentagon are Camp Ravenna in Ohio, Fort Custer in Michigan, Fort Drum in New York and Portsmouth SERE Training Area in Maine.