WASHINGTON -- The Missile Defense Agency has determined, due to environmental and cost concerns, to take a site in Maine off its list of possible future East Coast ballistic missile defense sites, according to an agency statement.
The Center for Security Forces Detachment Kittery Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape Facility (SERE East) in Redington Township, Maine, was under consideration for a possible missile interceptor site, but after a survey conducted by the MDA and other federal and state agencies, it was determined that the site "presented irreversible environmental impacts, significant constructability concerns, and extensive costs associated with developing infrastructure in a remote area," the statement reads.
The Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act required the MDA to conduct environmental impact studies to look at possible sites for additional ground-based interceptors for homeland defense.
The agency said the other candidate sites in New York, Ohio and Michigan will continue to be considered.
The remaining possible sites are Fort Drum in New York, the Fort Custer Training Center in Michigan and the Camp Ravenna Joint Training Center in Ohio.
The MDA notes in the statement that the Pentagon has not made a decision on whether it will actually end up building an additional interceptor site on the East Coast.
However, "if a decision were to be made in the future to construct a new site, completing the required site studies and Environmental Impact Statement would shorten the timeline required to build such a site," the agency states.
The Ground-based Midcourse Defense System has two sites currently in Alaska and California where ground-based interceptors are in place for protection from possible ballistic missile attacks from countries such as North Korea and Iran.
The FY-16 NDAA added $30 million for the planning and design of an East Coast missile defense site and would speed up its possible deployment, a victory for some congressional Republicans who have long fought for traction to move forward with the potential project.
The NDAA requires the defense secretary to submit a plan — no later than 30 days after the impact statements are released — to expedite the deployment time for a potential third site by at least two years.
And while Republican lawmakers succeeded in getting language into the NDAA that represents forward progress for the site, the Pentagon has been vocal that it doesn't need, nor can it afford, a third missile defense site in the US.
An East Coast missile defense site would be expensive. The commander of the Army's Space and Missile Defense Command, Lt. Gen. David Mann, said in February that it could cost at least $3 billion.
The MDA has also stressed other programs are more important to the defense of the homeland such as developing better discrimination tools to identify incoming missiles and addressing problems with the Exoatmospheric Kill Vehicle, part of the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System's interceptors that destroy missiles in flight.
Funding such possible programs as an East Coast missile shield would delay other important improvements that need to be made to the existing systems as well as development efforts to bring down the cost of these systems, defense officials have said.
Jen Judson is the land warfare reporter for Defense News. She has covered defense in the Washington area for 10 years. She was previously a reporter at Politico and Inside Defense. She won the National Press Club's best analytical reporting award in 2014 and was named the Defense Media Awards' best young defense journalist in 2018.