Valley intensifies efforts to attract missile defense to Camp Garfield

The long-delayed, congressionally mandated Missile Defense Review (MDR) was finally introduced by President Donald Trump at the Pentagon on Jan. 17. It calls for further research and new investment to help guarantee America’s safety for the next several decades to include new laser technologies, using the F-35 as an ICBM killer and potentially putting interceptors in space.

While we salute the intense effort and review by the national security community to evaluate the broader ballistic missile threat, release of the MDR is also a welcome step forward for our commitment to Camp James A. Garfield (formerly Camp Ravenna) that straddles Trumbull and Portage counties. The MDR indicates that the existing three candidate sites for a $5 billion ground-based nuclear interceptor system, including Camp Garfield, remain.

The Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber and more specifically its Eastern Ohio Military Affairs Commission urges Ohio’s congressional delegation and our local and state political leaders to continue advocating for the safety of all Ohioans and everyone else in the eastern U.S., which is facing the potential threat of incoming nuclear missiles from countries like Iran. It is our contention that, because of our work force and transportation system, Camp Garfield is the best place to build the ground-based system on time and on budget. And according to the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, it is the best site to protect the continental United States.

We will now step up our efforts to promote Camp Garfield. On March 5 and 6 we will host MDAA Executive Director Riki Ellison, one of the world’s foremost authorities on nuclear defense, for a public event in Trumbull County and tours of our military installations. Later in March, we will participate in the Great Lakes Metro Chambers Coalition annual D.C. Fly-in. Following our lead, the coalition has adopted the ground- based nuclear defense system as a public-policy priority.

In April we will hold the Mahoning Valley’s second annual Columbus Drive-in, and in June the Valley’s second annual D.C. Fly-in, so that local business, government and civic leaders can take the case directly to the policymakers in our state’s and nation’s capitals. Additionally, our team will continue our frequent visits to Washington to advocate for the authorization of the ground-based system and ultimately construction of it at Camp Garfield.

Disturbing developments

Recent activities in Iran, cited during the Missile Defense Review news conference featuring President Trump, Vice President Pence and Acting Secretary of Defense Shanahan, are certainly disturbing and further point to the need for the ground-based defense system. “This past Tuesday, the Iranian regime tested a ‘space launch vehicle’ – which failed – that will provide Iran with critical information – if it didn’t fail – that they could use to pursue intercontinental ballistic missile capability, and a capability, actually, of reaching the United States,” President Trump said.

We are encouraged that Ohio’s entire bipartisan congressional delegation has supported Camp Garfield and understands the need to add this layer of protection. Its commitment and understanding was captured by U.S. Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, immediately after the Pentagon news conference.

“The ballistic missile threat to the United States has grown greatly in recent years, particularly as Iran has expanded its capabilities. Adding a third ground-based interceptor site would serve American interests by protecting the U.S. homeland from this threat and deterring future aggression. Camp Garfield in particular provides a cost-efficient and effective location to help defend the United States from ballistic-missile threats. Although the new Missile Defense Review does not make a final decision on a third interceptor site, I will continue to make the case to the Defense Department that Camp Garfield is the ideal location.”

Broad strategy

Understanding the Defense Department’s broad strategy is important, but so is working to site a facility to better protect the Midwest and the Eastern Seaboard, an activity that will take investment and significant lead time to construct. We encourage the administration and Congress to ensure that a decision on an additional U.S. interceptor site be looked at from this timing perspective.

Furthermore, national security officials should rest assured that, evidenced by the broad support of organizations like the Youngstown Air Base Community Council, Portage Development Board, elected officials in Trumbull, Mahoning and Portage counties, and many others, the Mahoning Valley is a defense community that will continue leaning forward to support the nation’s military.

James Dignan is president & CEO of the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber.

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