WASHINGTON — The wait to find out if Camp Ravenna in northeast Ohio will land a much-coveted East Coast missile defense site may soon come to an end.
Though the Missile Defense Review – a document determining if the Defense Department should move forward on an attempt to build an East Coast missile defense site – was expected to be released last February, a local delegation from eastern Ohio was told during a recent fly-in to Washington, D.C., that the announcement could come within three weeks.
State Sen. Sean O’Brien, a Bazetta Democrat who made the trip to D.C., said multiple lawmakers told the delegation that the military had assured them they would be making a decision on whether to have a missile defense system on the East Coast “in three weeks.”
The lawmakers, he said, “believe they will announce which site it will be of the three” competing. Camp Ravenna is competing for the site with New York and a site in Michigan.
Most spokesmen for Ohio lawmakers demurred when asked if they knew whether the review is expected to be released within the next three weeks, but a spokesman for Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, said the office has been told it should be coming within that period of time.
O’Brien said he’s optimistic about Ravenna’s chances. “With the snowfall New York and Michigan get, we have some really good reasons for it to come here to Camp Ravenna,” he said. “We have the land. It’s just the perfect location.”
Guy Coviello, vice president of government affairs for the Youngstown/Warren Regional Chamber of Commerce, said he was also told the review would be released within two to three weeks.
He said the community has made a strong case for itself in terms of the construction workforce and affordability – two factors that are part of the decision-making process. “I think we have made a very powerful case,” he said.
The Missile Defense Agency itself has been non-committal on the timing, with a spokeswoman saying Friday that they did not have any information to pass along but, “once the (Missile Defense Review) is released we hope to have additional information.”
The state’s delegation and business leaders have lobbied long and hard to land the site, which would be capable of fending off long- and intermediate-range missiles, presumably launched from Iran or North Korea. That site, along with bases in California and Alaska, would cumulatively work to head off any incoming missiles.
To make an East Coast site happen, the Trump administration will have to invest $3.6 billion. If they commit to an East Coast site, they could also choose to select a specific site at a later date. They could also opt not to add a site at all, choosing instead to beef up current technology.
Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center is competing with Fort Custer Training Center near Battle Creek, Michigan, and Fort Drum in upstate New York north of Syracuse.
The Ravenna site was once home to the Ravenna Army Ammunition Plant, commonly known as the Ravenna Arsenal. It officially opened in 1942 and supplied ammunition for U.S. troops in World War II and the wars in Korea and Vietnam before closing in 1992.
In a 2016 letter to the Missile Defense Agency, the Ohio delegation said landing the project would bring 2,300 construction jobs and up to 850 full-time employees once the system is operational.