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Missile Defense Agency chief talks site evaluation

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The Missile Defense Agency’s head said that a short list of places for further review for a potential East Coast missile defense site may come into place within a matter of weeks.

“We are in the process of screening ... all of the sites that we have looked at in detail down to a number that will then result in us going to ask first any government entities in the area for additional information, and then eventually for us to go on site to several of these places before the end of the year to do site surveys,” Vice Adm. James D. Syring said during a Senate defense appropriations subcommittee meeting Wednesday.

Following a question from Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, about what sites are being reviewed, Adm. Syring replied “we’re looking at the two sites in Maine in conjunction with other sites as well.”

Fort Drum has been rumored as one site that may be reviewed, along with the former Griffiss Air Force Base, Rome, and a site in New Hampshire.

Among the factors affecting the agency’s search, Adm. Syring said, are safety, location, system effectiveness, base and land infrastructure and community support.

The review has been taking place for months, following a requirement in last year’s defense spending bill. New funding to move along the creation of an East Coast site is under discussion for the 2014 defense authorization bill. Proponents of an East Coast site, which would be in addition to sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., say it will protect the country from attacks from North Korea and Iran. Opponents have questioned the potential billions of dollars in costs for such a development and the efficacy of the missiles.

Adm. Syring, in a letter sent in June to Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., the Armed Services Committee chairman, said that there was no need to create an eastern site and that cheaper short-term alternatives are available for protecting the United States.

A spokesman for Rep. William L. Owens, D-Plattsburgh, said the office had not received any new information since the congressman met with Adm. Syring in June. Mr. Owens told the agency chief at that time that Fort Drum had the facilities to support the development of a site.

Maj. Gen. Stephen J. Townsend, commander of the 10th Mountain Division and Fort Drum, said in June that he was waiting for the site study’s completion before giving an opinion about the placement of missiles.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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