Five Possible East Coast Missile Defense Sites

The U.S. Defense Department has identified five possible East Coast missile defense sites, though the effort is still mostly a paperwork exercise and far from becoming reality.

The potential locations for housing ground-based interceptors are Fort Drum in upstate New York; Camp Ethan Allen Training Site in Vermont; Naval Air Station Portsmouth SERE Training Area in Maine; Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio and Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan.

The Pentagon maintains a fleet of 30 rocket-like interceptors designed to shoot down incoming threats such as nuclear missiles as part of the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system. It already plans to increase the number of interceptors stored in silos at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California to 44 by 2017.

Led by Republicans, lawmakers recently ordered the department to study the feasibility of building a site in the eastern United States, despite the ground-based system’s mixed record in tests and the fact that the brass said an additional facility wasn’t required.

“In response to a congressional requirement, we are evaluating several sites in the continental United States for a potential future deployment of additional Ground-based Interceptors, or GBIs,” Navy Vice Adm. James Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency, said in a statement announcing the locations.

“While the administration has not made a decision to build another missile defense facility in the U.S. for homeland defense, if a decision were to be made in the future to construct a new site, completing the required site study and environmental impact statement would shorten the timeline required to build such a site,” he said.

An environmental impact study alone may take as long as two years, Syring said.

In a written reply to Sen. Carl Levin in June, Syring, along with Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of the Joint Functional Component Command for Integrated Missile Defense, acknowledged there is “no validated military requirement” for an East Coast missile defense site.

Regardless, a team from the Defense Department will visit each of the five potential locations to study the infrastructure, including power supply, water availability, transportation access, according to the statement.

An interceptor launched from Vandenberg during a July 5 test missed its target over the Pacific Ocean. Afterward, lawmakers cited among their concerns the system’s record of hitting targets in only 8 of 15 attempts; the high cost of testing, which runs about $215 million per exercise; and the fact that many of the interceptors aren’t operational.

The Pentagon plans to spend more than $1 billion in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1 to expand the fleet of interceptors. Overall, it wants to spend $9.16 billion on ballistic missile defense. 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 and will remain in effect over the next decade unless Congress and the White House agree to an alternative deficit-reduction plan.

About the Author

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

    Lol, the smoke looks like a dick

    • Big-Dean

      LOL, large but not very useful

      • Rest Pal

        that’s the spirit of American rockets (e.g. Saturn 5 in the Apollo 11 program)

    • Menzie

      So you are what 14 years old?

      • tiger

        Just a National Security advisor for Obama. Which is about the same thing as a 14 year old.

    • Calimaar

      +1 for this being the first comment. Nearly spat coffee all over my desk, even if it is completely immature. Thanks for the early morning laugh.

    • CylonSleeper

      I really did laugh out loud when I read your comment. I think it’s great that in a world wracked by civil war, terrorism and the economic sclerosis of the free world, we can all still laugh at a good knob gag.

      Best wishes from London.

  • Col. Norman

    I find it funny that they make study f a program which will never be accepted due to Presidential opposition. I also find that almost half of the missiles miss there target makes me think this maybe a waste of time. Russian and Chinese ICBMs could punch threw this fence in a all out war. Another false sense of protection, like rifle bullet proof helmets.

    • Col. Norman

      Agree there are counting there bases before they can make a reliable anti-missile Missile.

      • Dale

        There is no way the US military could ever have enough interceptors to shoot down all of Russia and China’s ICBMs. This program is designed to shoot down missiles from rogue nations only. Russia and China don’t fire because they know we will fire back at them. Essentially Armegedon! COL huh? What you run a chicken joint or something?

    • Tom Billings

      The Ground-based system was designed with letting missiles with the decoys that Russia had in the late 1990s through. That was thought by the Clinton administration to be enough of a sop to the “Great Russia” faction in the Kremlin to keep things cool. Obviously, it wasn’t.

      We had a chance to change that low capability with the multi-interceptor missile program that was to go into high-gear development in 2009. Then Obama and Hillary decided they didn’t want that to stick up them pushing their reset button in Russian relations, and it was cancelled. The cancellation was supposed to please both the Kremlin and the administration’s backers who, like most of their Party, despise ballistic missile defense, especially when it might be made to work!

      We know how well that has worked since then.

    • tiger

      The system is not meant to stop Russian or Chinese ICBM’s in a full out war. It’s designed to stop North Korea or say the rouge SSBN driver shooting at us. A limited system.

      • oblatt1

        laughable, its limited to funneling pork to a few chosen contractors nothing more.

        • Charlie

          Yes. Notice that Fort Custer Training Center is in Michigan (more money for Senator Levin’s bankrpt state, need I mention Detroit)..

          • tiger

            Is Detroit worth defending? A nuke would improve the area without a need for RoboCop.

          • blight_

            Depends. It would probably be of worth defending the Lima Tank plant and Rock Island, but the Upper Penninsula, Green Bay, Gary, Flint and Detroit? Hm.

            I guess Wisconsin is forfeit to Russian missile strikes. Farewell cheese curds.

      • Tom Billings

        Yes, the intent of Congress was to stop small numbers of missiles. However, it is well-known that while one design may be open to modifications that increase its abilities, others are not able to be so modified without major redevelopment that is as expensive as a clean sheet design. One of the competing concepts that was *not* easily modified was picked by the Clinton Administration, as a sop to the “Great Russia” faction in the Kremlin. Now, we find ourselves with the possibility of NK, or Iran having technology for the decoys available to Russia in 1998 by somewhere around 2020.

        This should not be surprising. To quote Von Karman, “Eventually, Physics works the same for everyone.”

        The people we find in Democratic Administrations seem to have told themselves for the last 30 years that the answer is to fix technology in place. This will satisfy immediate political need, while ignoring Von Karman’s wisdom. That strategy must eventually leave us open to warheads from anyone who can come within 20 years of current stat of the art.

        IMHO, pushing BMD tech from 1955 onwards would have brought a far shorter WW3, ending long before 1991. It would also have de-incentivized the small tyrant states that have taken up nuclear-armed ballistic missile technology as their preferred strategy basis in world politics.

    • blight_

      If the miss rate is 40-50%, increase the salvo density? More radars to track target, more interceptors, increase P(kill)?

      Says a lot when a nation’s offensive capability vastly overshadows defense. I suppose building more interceptors would drive the Russians up a wall.

  • Lance

    word up

  • d.e.

    well looks like this website is on the do not visit anymore administrator list. sissy

  • Bernard

    Cancel this and send that money to NASA.

    • Charlie

      for them to waste in more sensitivity training.

  • hibeam

    Pretty obvious we have given up on the idea the North Korea and Iran will never be allowed to have nuclear weapons. Plan B. We will try to shoot them down. Another red line humiliation.

    • Menzie

      Its funny to see how you see the fact that someone stepped over your red-line as a humiliation. So without world support you make an arbitrary red-line for a sovereign nation and expect them to listen? Ummm. I see Obama is now going with the Russian plan to have Syria destroy all its chemical weapons. So why was there a red-line at all? Why not propose this first?

      • tiger

        We have gone from walking with a big stick to tail between legs. This administration has no clue about Foreign policy.

        • Dr. Horrible

          Do please enlighten us?

          Preferably not in the abstract.

    • Russell Romick

      That’s a pretty porous red line. Lulz.

    • SJE

      This “allowed” idea makes me laugh. What are we, parents who have to smack a little kid? North Korea has one of the largest conventional and nuclear forces in the world, is backed by an even bigger military next door, and could make a mess of S. Korea and Japan in short order. The only way to not “allow” them to have nuclear weapons is a first strike nuclear attack of our own that (a) works completely (b) does not provoke an attack from China or Russia. Do you really think that will work? Most people don’t. So, we go back to the old plan of trying diplomacy and economic sanctions. They don’t look big and tough, and they will take decades, but they are less likely to result in a nuclear attack on the USA. I’ll take that option.

  • Henry

    A screwy idea to make money for insiders. The obvious choice is Wallops…

    The infrastructure is there already, so it will cost one-third as much to build and one-quarter as much to man.

    • tiger

      hmmm………… There is the small matter of angles, polar approach, reaction time, intercept altitudes to consider. That location may be too far South for the mission.

  • Steve B.

    I admit that the “NAS Portsmouth” site had me puzzled. For one, I wasn’t aware there was a naval air station in Portsmouth. A navy shipyard - yes, but I’m now assuming the NAS is located at the old Pease AFB. Why they need a NAS at Pease, which the AF closed and when they had Brunswick NAS just up the road, is a puzzle, but that’s how the base closing stuff works. But a bit of research shows that the SERE site is actually up near Rangely, Maine, way the heck up in NW Maine. No clue where though, but if the locals are aware of this, I’d bet they will be happy for the work.

    • EW3

      Not sure if it’s the same now, but when I went through SERE the command authority over SERE was naval aviation. In my case it was FAETUPAC (Fleet Aviation Electronics Training Unit, Pacific) and it was run out of North Island NAS. Normally SERE is for flight crews, but during Vietnam other high risk jobs had to go through SERE.

      • Steve B.

        What’s odd is that I located the SERE site near Rangely, it’s SE of town in the mountains, adjacent to the Appalachian Trail. Not a huge site, on the side of Mt. Redington, about 800 ft or so up from the nearest paved road, Rt 16. Odd site to stick a bunch of missile silos and I’m not seeing where they would put an X-Band radar if one is planned. It’s all of maybe 1/2 mile from the AT, so there will be major opposition to this.

        They could as easily stick this over to the east in Moscow, ME, or down in Columboa Falls, ME at old OTH-B sites. Nobody would care and the terrains wide open.

  • Rufus Frazier

    Obama promised to cut missile defense prior to his election in 2008. I’m not sure what the numbers were, but I do know for a fact that there were significant layoffs in the GMD program soon after his election.

    • Steve B.

      Recall that Obama added 14 more interceptors to the Ft. Greeley system last March, so seemingly see’s “some” value, though like many, is skeptical that a system in development since ’99 or so and that has cost 40 billion or so to date, only has about a 50% fail/success rate. Perhaps it’s wisdom we are seeing in not wanting to pour money into an bottomless pit.

  • oblatt1

    Amongst the serious analysts there has been an expectation for a while now that America will be hit sooner and later by a nuke. Ironically most expected it to be a nuke on 9/11 not airliners. But since then under bush in particular the number of enemies we have has go up 10 fold. If we continue down this path a large scale lot of life on the CONUS is pretty much inevitable.

  • Jay

    The Soviets developed missile defense in the 70s, it is still deployed near Moscow.
    The Russians claim that it no longer is armed with nuclear warheads, but since they never developed any reliable conventional interceptor, it probably is still nuclear.

    The idea behind the Soviet system was not to intercept every incoming, but send up nukes to take down the first wave of US warheads, to buy time for the Commie leadership to take shelter. I assume the US east coast interceptors would serve a similar purpose: protect the politicans, not the people.

    • blight_

      The ABM treaty gave each side one missile defense system. Project Safeguard went up in the Dakotas, they put theirs around Moscow and it’s still there. We took ours down.

      Of course, the Russians also had Dead Hand/Perimeter, which would automatically propagate the order to counterstrike or second-strike once activated and certain thresholds were met (namely, no National Command Authority to overturn/disable launch orders; nuclear launch markers such as seismic and radiation). Like us, they used signaling rockets to propagate that instruction.

      Bear in mind that we flushed the ABM Treaty, so the Russians are free to build more ABM systems or upgrade appropriately. It’s possible that the war of the future will be ICBM’s , ABM and anti-ABMs, since the Russians know that countering the ABM cannot just be the province of increasing salvo density and RV count.

      As to the purpose of the ABM system, undoubtedly it would be cheaper to build a secret Metro Rail line from the White House to DCA, or perhaps even a secret connection to the Metro system. Nuclear launch detected, notify POTUS, shuffle POTUS to Metro, metro to Gaithersburg (furthest Red Line), or Metro to Orange Line to Vienna. Probably safer than trying to get a helicopter to Andrews, helicopter to VC-25, VC-25 in the air and trying to outrace the shockwave of an ICBM…

      Or getting to the MARC system and racing away on the rail net, but I imagine the Russians will target that.There’s an upper limit to how much running from Andrews can be done, or hiding in the metro system, or hiding in Greenbrier (not anymore).

  • PolicyWonk

    Congress has determined that a US East Coast missile defense base is needed, despite the US military considering it unnecessary. Hence - if this goes through, we can be certain of a few things:

    1. Corporate welfare is alive and well
    2. The HoR doesn’t buy its own BRAVO SIERRA w/r/t sequestration or budgetary discipline

  • Mystick

    So… I guess ABMT is moot now that the other signatory entity is technically no more…

    • blight_


      ABM treaty was thrown out during Bush Jr. There’s a reason why Russia moved Iskanders to Kaliningrad, and probably would move Iskanders into range of any eastern european missile battery or radar system. If the ABM system neutralizes Mutually Assured Destruction, Russia is toast. The only way to assure it is to neutralize, and that’s what the Iskanders were for. They may also add Brahmos missiles to the mix…ones that aren’t ITAR/MTCR restricted, and thus of far superior range to the ones that can be legally exported to India.

  • Stratege

    With mentioned miss rate this ABM system should be pretty useless against maneuverable RVs deployed on new Russian ICBM/SLBMs.

  • dan

    Dont worry, all this technology is useless when our socialistic leader is doing far greater damage than what any bomb could do. Who needs to go to war with a country that is broke, let alone if the agenda comes true for U.N. agenda 21 and one world government. Eliminate the middle class and take away our guns!