Brass: East Coast Missile Site Unneeded


The U.S. military has no need for an East Coast missile defense site, according to top officers who oversee the weaponry.

“There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site,” Navy Vice Adm. J.D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, and Army Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, wrote in a June 10 letter to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, today released a copy of the letter, as well as his initial request asking the officers for their judgment on the proposal. The correspondence comes a day before the full panel is to begin amending, or marking up, its version of the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act. The legislation sets policy goals and spending targets for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The move sets up a fight between Levin and his counterpart in the House of Representatives, Rep. Buck McKeon, R-Calif. The House Armed Services Committee last week voted in favor of legislation to fund development of the installation, which is estimated to cost at least $3 billion.

The U.S. missile-defense system includes sea, ground, air and space components designed to intercept ballistic missiles during any phase of flight. Major contractors include Boeing Co., Lockheed Martin Corp., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Raytheon Co.

The Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, the land-based component, includes missiles stored in silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

In an overview of the proposed legislation, McKeon said both the Obama and Bush administrations have supported the need for an additional homeland missile defense site.

The military officers said they oppose Congress mandating the creation of missile defense silos on the East Coast before the completion of an environmental impact review mandated in this year’s legislation. They also said investing in the Ballistic Missile Defense System, or BMDS, and enhanced sensor technology would be more cost-effective.

“While a potential East Coast site would add operational capability, it would also come at a significant materiel development and service sustainment cost,” Syring and Formica wrote.

The Defense Department in April proposed cutting more than a half-billion dollars from missile defense for fiscal 2014 even amid heightened concern over belligerent statements from the North Korean regime of Kim Jong Un.

The Pentagon plans to spend $9.16 billion on ballistic missile defense in fiscal 2014, which begins Oct. 1, according to budget documents. That’s $558 million, or 5.7 percent, less than the $9.72 billion it requested for this year. The figures don’t take into account automatic budget cuts, known as sequestration, which took effect March 1.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Tweedle Dee

    Well this whole debate over the status of our “2 or 3” missile defense sites is probably unneeded because as a betting man, I would say the government has more than we are letting on.

    • Tom Billings

      The problem with that bet is that is a duplicate of ones made by my friends for 3 decades, which, except for the few months of operation of the Spartan and Sprint missiles before Congress denied further operating funds, were a total washout. I constantly met people who told me that the government *could*not* be so stupid as to leave us naked. They were wrong.

      Our Congress, and much of the executive branch, had a real fear of Ballistic Missile Defense, because it would inevitably need orbital operations, which would be the first increment of advance leading to a US Space Force. That would have sucked up money they needed for the Medicare they bought Congressional elections with for the last nearly 5 decades.

      • blight_

        We’ve learned from the space race that money that gets sucked up into weird programs that has no value to the voters is baaaad.

        We won’t bother with space again until our “pride” is hurt by Chinese taikonauts. They’ll probably be the second guys to hit the moon in ~2020; which is better than the Russians, and a reminder of how America used to do great things, but can’t because we can’t do anything without flushing billions of dollars we don’t have down the Toilet of Endless Studies.

  • hibeam

    Brass: East Coast Unneeded.

  • Steve B.

    It’s mostly all blue states anyway…..

  • tiger

    Herman Goering made promises about air defense too………….. Epic fail.

  • PolicyWonk

    The only problem with BMD is that ballistic missiles are the dumbest, most easiest to track method of attack. The source is immediately known, and therefore the favor can be returned before the first one even hits the ground on the receiving end.

    The far more serious problem is with cruise missiles: much harder to detect; much simpler technology; can be launched from anything that floats from much closer; and BMD can do nothing about.

    Though, it figures congress wants to build BMD on the east coast, when the brass doesn’t consider it necessary. Yet another example of wasteful congressional meddling – i.e. corporate welfare.

  • Leo

    The U.S. will need this east cost missile defense shield . Wait and see, it will be to late . a Russian storm is brewing .


      Like a Russian Blitzkrieg? Nope.

    • blight_

      Russian ICBMs will come from land silos to the north, or if they use FOBS, they could come from anywhere…it’ll just be late to the nuclear exchange party.

    • tiger

      “Red Storm Rising” was a nice book. They lack that power today…… A Stiff breeze is all they can muster.

  • stephen russell

    Gee, now East Coast wide open for missile strikes from Iran etc.
    makes No sense.
    Unless have other sites??

  • hibeam

    We will get missile defense and border security the same way we got airport security. Where the heck is the horse and why is the barn door wide open?

  • Tony C.

    Leave Washington DC unprotected as primary target ground zero for any serious nuclear attack. That seemed to be outrageous when they talked about placing interceptors in Alaska, but the mentality is any serious attack would be from Russia over the artic circle. Maybe, they are still thinking Russia will only attack over the artic circle? Forget about the Russian and Chinese nuslear missile submarine forces. Fact is, Ballistic Missile Defense is still a gamble and any system will be overwhelmed in a major nuclear war. It only deters small states from attempting to launch a nuclear strike of limited scope (ie: North Korea).

    • PolicyWonk

      The initial BMD debates (w/r/t validity, whether its worth it, etc.) concluded that its far too expensive, far too cheap/easy to defeat, and did nothing to prevent attacks from cruise missiles, which are a FAR bigger threat.

      Especially in the case with Washington DC – the only way to partially defeat the cruise missile threat would be to move the US capitol and/or the government into the mid-west (think Kansas, or thereabouts).

    • barbara brandt

      As I understand it, the war you are mentioning with nuclear weapons would also mean the end of the Gulf Stream as we know it and starvation and nuclear winter. There is no defense for this outcome.

  • Andy

    When Iran can get a missile that can get further then Europe, the Russians won’t just shoot over the Arctic or use their SSBNs to do, and North Korea/China decide that shooting them ACROSS the rest of Asia, Europe, and the Atlantic is a good idea, you can convince me why we need the East Coast BMD.

    Also, pretty sure we have Burkes and CGs that can do the job just fine, if needed.

  • Melvin B

    So if you live in the Northeast your a writeoff….

    Hover that sub off the East Coast and ride the thermals of the Gulf Stream….

    Hmm feeling btter now…

  • wpnexp

    Seems like the fix is in. A General promoted by President Obama telling a democratic Senator that we don’t need an east coast missile defense site who is trying to counter a move by a Rebulican in the House. Now can’t you imagine DefSec Hagel’s White House mimions actually writing the letter for the General. Top Brass no longer tells it like it is, they just kowtow to the Administration.

  • barbara brandt

    2002 Navy contract with 5 universities was cancelled (ocean modelling (heat transfer) for Gulf of Mexico with Stennis Space Center, Mexico and some Cuban Oceanographers participating. Issue was new hurricane monitoring across GOM to protect New Orleans, Gulf of Mexico shipping and oil industry. This contract frozen by Navy and funds were supposed to be used for a missile initiative off the East Coast. Did this happen? Is this missile defense a different one or? If there was no project, what became of the millions of dollars taken from projects like ours? Why is this now a topic after Iraq and Afganistan? Do we have new data that tells us that we have to be prepared for ????