MONTPELIER — Vermont is no longer being considered as a location for an East Coast anti-ballistic missile launch site, the Pentagon said Friday.
Camp Ethan Allen in Colchester was one of five locations being considered despite strong objections to the program from Vermont’s congressional delegation.
The missile shield system consists of ground-based interceptor missiles and radar to strike incoming warheads. Two existing interceptor sites are at Fort Greely in Alaska and Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.
The remaining locations under consideration are Camp Ravenna in Ohio; NAS Portsmouth SERE Training Area in Maine; Fort Custer in Michigan and Fort Drum in upstate New York.
The Defense Department said the government did an extensive evaluation of the five sites announced in September before dropping Vermont from the list.
It will now do an environmental review at each site that will consider potential effects on land use, water resources, air quality, transportation and socioeconomics. That is expected to take about two years.
The department emphasized that it has not decided to go ahead with a new missile defense site.
The Republican-led U.S. House passed defense authorization and spending bills in 2012 that included funding and a mandate to construct an East Coast site. But Senate Democrats and the Obama administration opposed it.
A compromise was struck calling for a study to determine if an East Coast site is needed and where it should be.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., says he’s opposed to the missile system because he considers it a waste of money.
“The ground-based interceptors being contemplated for an East Coast missile defense site cost huge sums of money, without delivering reliable capability,” he said in a statement Friday. “I welcome the news that Vermont’s Camp Ethan Allen will not be considered as a site, and I continue to pursue redirecting those funds toward projects that have more proven and cost-effective success in keeping Americans safe.”
Back in the fall when Vermont was named as a possible site, Leahy’s fellow delegation members reacted strongly as well.
Democratic Rep. Peter Welch said in a statement then: “This is absurd. It’s the wrong location for a bad idea and dead on arrival.”
Sen. Bernard Sanders, an independent, said then that he, too, doubted Vermont would ever serve as a missile defense site.
“My first impression is that this is a very bad idea and, for a wide variety of reasons, I do not believe that it will ever happen,” Sanders had said in a statement.
Democratic Gov. Peter Shumlin said then that he supported the position of the Vermont delegation.
There are lingering questions about the effectiveness of the missile defense system. The last successful test occurred in 2008, and there have been many failed tests since then, according to Leahy’s office. The program has cost about $158 billion since 1983.
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