US missile-defense facility for region merits support


Mention Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, the sprawling 21,000-acre military installation that straddles the border of Trumbull and Portage counties, and most thoughts quickly will turn to its glory days several decades ago.

During World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War, the installation then popularly known as the Ravenna Arsenal was a beehive of activity manufacturing munitions for those armed conflicts. At its height, it employed more than 14,000 people.

Today, the facility remains a viable cog in the U.S. military machine with more than 100 employees and as many as 1,800 reservists training there. But its short-term future could become considerably more robust and critical to this nation’s defenses.

That’s because the base is one of three finalists in the U.S. Defense Department’s search for an East Coast Missile Defense headquarters for the nation.

We therefore join others, including the camp itself, the Youngstown Air Reserve Station, the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and this region’s state and federal legislative delegations in urging the U.S. Missile Defense Agency to select the Ohio Army National Guard military base for its planned expansion of ground-based interceptors for homeland defense.

The latest coordinated show of support for Camp Ravenna’s promising bid came last week when the Ohio House joined the state Senate in unanimously approving a resolution that urges the MDA to locate the missile-defense system in Northeast Ohio.

ECONOMIC IMPACT

The magnitude and economic impact of the project would be immense. The estimated $3.6 billion base expansion could bring an additional 2,300 or more jobs to the region during construction and then employ about 850 full-time staff once it reached full operational capacity.

Currently, the U.S. has only two missile-defense sites with long-range interceptor missiles active, one each in Alaska and California. The site would be able to launch ground-based defense missiles to protect the eastern United States in the event the country was attacked.

At a time when tensions and nuclear threats have risen to nervously high levels with North Korea, the need for such a facility to better protect the eastern half of our nation is compelling.

“Camp Ravenna is uniquely positioned to be a strong site for selection because of its geographical location and surrounding military, technological and transportation assets,” said State Rep. John Boccieri of Poland, D-59th, a leading booster for the project. Those assets include the nearby Youngstown Air Force reserve base and NASA’s John Glenn Research Center in suburban Cleveland.

“Not only would our area benefit from the economic impact, but the impacts to our regional security cannot be delayed,” Boccieri said.

All indicators point to a decision being made this year, perhaps within months, so there’s no time to waste to accelerate our region’s push for the project and to emphasize the assets Camp Ravenna offers over its two competitors for the prize, the Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan and the Fort Drum Army military reservation in New York state.

The coalition of groups lobbying on behalf of Camp Ravenna is also emphasizing other strong suits including its access to several local universities, highways, a Class A railroad and highly-rated hospitals.

We encourage individuals and institutions in the region also to lend their support as the ripple effects of the massive undertaking would be felt in the Valley.

That support is urgently needed now. According to Vito J. Abruzzino, leader of the Youngstown-based Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission that promotes the value of Northeast Ohio military installations, those backing the proposals from Michigan and New York got a jumpstart in their earlier launches of aggressive lobbying campaigns.

Abruzzino and others likely were disappointed Tuesday night when President Donald J. Trump did not mention the missile defense project in his State of the Union address, as they had hoped. But it is certainly not too late for the president and his military advisers to endorse the project and recommend MDA select Camp Ravenna. After all, the chief executive had repeatedly pledged to assist our region economically.

And though the addition of a missile defense center would not restore the former Ravenna Arsenal to the hubbub of its heyday, it would inject substantial new life into the base while strengthening our region’s economy and bolstering our nation’s defenses.

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