New York Senator Charles Schumer has started a mini-gold rush for Pentagon dollars for what might eventually become a new long-range missile defense interceptor base in his state.
In a press statement issued on May 6, Schumer did what most politicians do, which is plump their district or state for more federal dollars — no matter how skeptical they are of the value of the project.
Anyone banking on jobs and dollars flowing to the region anytime soon should place their dreams on a distant platform.
At this point, the Missile Defense Agency has merely launched a study of possible sites through the Environmental Impact Statements process. Basically, the agency is conducting a study on what to study. That site selection is not forthcoming before the end of 2013.
Then it will take years – perhaps until early 2016 – for these environmental studies to be completed.
In the meantime, the Pentagon has budgeted zero dollars in its future budgets for the many billions of dollars that it would cost to build new sites.
This is why a group of Republicans on the House Armed Services Committee is attempting to convince Republican House appropriators to include $250 million to begin immediately construction activities for a third site.
Moreover, there is serious doubt about the effectiveness of the planned missile defense working at the sites already constructed in Alaska and California or future sites on the East Coast.
To his credit, Schumer advocates for his home state “should military experts determine that a new system on the East Coast is necessary, workable and cost-effective.”
These are three very big caveats. There is little evidence that the current missile defense system would protect the United States, statements by military officials to the contrary.
Two official studies –– one by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) and the other by the Defense Science Board (DSB) –– have heavily critiqued the current U.S. missile defense program.
The NAS study, which raises the idea of deploying an East Coast long-range defense, points out that the current system is deeply flawed and a similar system on the East Coast would similarly fail without a new, faster booster rocket and a much more advanced system to discriminate warheads from decoys and countermeasures.
That would entail much time and many billions of dollars, dollars that the Pentagon does not have at a time of fiscal austerity.
If politicians would prefer to spend on a non-functional missile defense rather than cyber-security, drones, anti-terrorism and other programs designed for 21st century threats, they risk undermining U.S. security.
So the pot of gold that Senator Schumer pines for is years away at best and dependent on so many developments in the program that his constituents should avoid thinking of this as money they can take to the bank.
Oh, and by the way, should the evil Iran or evil North Korea be so suicidal as to attack the United States with nuclear warheads atop intercontinental-range missiles, something neither Iran nor North Korea possess, the citizens of Ft. Drum and Griffiss could become targets.