After five long years of detailed study and analysis, the federal government stands poised to announce within three weeks whether it will proceed with a $3.6 billion project to build a massive missile defense site in the eastern half of the United States and whether to award that prize to our region.
That news, relayed late last week by state and federal, should galvanize a full-court press of aggressive last-minute lobbying to the administration of President Donald J. Trump for green-lighting the project and for placing it at the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Site at the border of Portage and Trumbull counties.
The potential benefits of the Continental Interceptor Site to our region’s economy and our nation’s defenses demands nothing less.
The project was born in 2013 when the U.S. Missile Defense Agency was tasked with finding a place in the eastern half of the United States to accompany the West Coast Missile Defense bases at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and Fort Greely in Alaska.
Two years ago, Camp Ravenna, the sprawling 2,100-acre National Guard training base that once served as a center of ammunition manufacturing for several wars, was selected as one of three finalists for the proposed project. The other two are Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan and the Fort Drum Army military reservation in New York state.
Fortunately, some in the Mahoning Valley have been active for many months now in impressing upon federal officials the benefits to the military and to our economically challenged region of locating the CIS at Camp Ravenna.
Just last week, a contingent of Valley political and business representatives took part in a multiday Fly-in to Washington, D.C. Some in that contingent had the opportunity to meet with White House, legislative and other federal officials directly to accentuate the viability of the National Guard camp to the military’s needs.
We certainly hope those direct face-to-face talks work to Camp Ravenna’s advantage. We also hope political, business and military leaders in the community, coupled with input from all segments of Portage, Trumbull and Mahoning counties, undertake a last-minute blitz of letters, emails and other avenues of support for the project to the offices of President Trump and Secretary of Defense James Mattis.
We also urge U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan of Howland, D-13th, one of the strongest advocates for the project, to continue to use whatever leverage he has to encourage Defense and Trump administration officials to locate the CIS in his district. Other members of Ohio’s congressional delegation should do likewise.
Ryan and others have emphasized the strategic location Camp Ravenna would provide to the military but also stresses its impact on the Mahoning Valley region: “It could lead to about 2,300 construction jobs with a $240 million economic impact in region and lead to about 850 permanent jobs in our community.”
Many in our community have rightly recognized that sizable injection of economic vitality and have joined in the effort. As our broadcast partner 21 WFMJ-TV reported recently, more than 300 letters of support for Camp Ravenna have been tracked by the Chamber.
One needn’t look far for ample evidence to write glowingly about the viability of the Camp Ravenna proposal. An exhaustive 330-page study by the U.S. Defense Department evaluating Camp Ravenna included many gold stars for the plan.
The proposed site received high marks in most all of the categories studied that included air quality, biological resources, cultural resources, geology and soils, hazardous materials, health concerns, land use, noise, socioeconomics, transportation, utilities, water quality, wetlands, visual and aesthetic and environmental justice.
Riki Ellison, chairman of the nonprofit Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, argues that a third site in the continental United States is overdue, and Ohio clearly has its advantages. The Buckeye State is more centrally located to major population centers and has more coverage for more states, he has argued.
It is now time for all in the Valley to volley urgent messages of full throttle support to the decision-makers on this win-win proposition for the nation’s burgeoning military defenses and for our region’s struggling economy.