Missile defense — in New York
From forest fires to earthquakes, the West Coast can seem a particularly dangerous place to live. But when it comes to protection against the threat of long-range missiles, it’s much better off than the East Coast.
But that may be about to change for the better — with New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer playing a major role.
In March, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced that in light of renewed North Korean belligerence, including long-range missile testing in violation of international sanctions, the United States will beef up its missile-defense system to protect American cities.
9/11 showed what destruction three airliners can cause. The damage from a missile, possibly carrying a nuclear warhead, is unimaginable. This is exactly what the Defense Department is slowly preparing to defend against.
Too slowly, in fact.
The United States already has homeland-defense sites in Alaska and in California; these mainly defend against potential North Korean missiles, which would enter US airspace from the West. By the time the job’s done, the West Coast will have 44 of these long-range ground-based interceptors.
But what about Iran? It continues to develop its missile program and to defiantly move toward a nuclear-weapons capability even in the face of sanctions. And an Iranian long-range missile would enter US airspace from the East.
The current missile-defense system provides some protection from missiles headed toward the East Coast, but the country needs another site to give our military more chances and another angle to successfully intercept a missile headed here from Iran.
New York’s Fort Drum is considered a leading contender for this prestigious responsibility. Its location in relation to where enemy missiles would be headed makes it ideal, which is why the Pentagon selected it as the new site for a data center to help track such missiles.
As Sen. Schumer wrote in a letter to the White House: “Should military experts determine that a new system on the East Coast is necessary, workable and cost effective, Fort Drum and Griffiss Air Force Base are uniquely capable for the job. . . A federal investment for missile interceptors in Upstate New York could create thousands of jobs and significant revenue in local communities, just as similar missile-defense systems have in California and Alaska.”
Years ago, the Bush administration singled out Fort Drum as an ideal US-based location for this necessary site. It later decided to pursue locating the third site in Europe in order to protect both the East Coast and our allies, but the Obama administration canceled that plan for other reasons. It then opted to develop a new missile interceptor to deploy in Europe by 2018 — but that program’s now been canceled, too.
Which brings the country back to square one.
The Defense Intelligence Agency has confirmed it believes Pyongyang has a nuclear weapon small enough to place on a missile. And North Korea has proven its willingness to share and spread this technology, especially and including with Iran, So the threat to our nation from both sides of the country becomes more acute.
Regardless of whether or not the Pentagon chooses New York, Sen. Schumer’s leadership could certainly speed up this initiative and ultimately lead to the better protection of New Yorkers and their fellow Americans.
- Rebeccah Heinrichs, an expert on nuclear deterrence and missile defense, is a visiting fellow with the Heritage Foundation.
Originally appeared in the New York Post.