WASHINGTON — With little fanfare, a Missile Defense Agency team slipped in and out of Camp Ethan Allen last week to research the feasibility of locating a possible missile defense battery at the site.
The Jericho, Vt., facility, known as the Ethan Allen Firing Range, is one of five sites being considered as part of a congressional mandate, although agency officials say they don’t need an additional site.
The agency will select at least three sites by the end of this year for a formal environmental impact study that will take up to two years to complete.
“Remember, there is no decision to build an additional missile defense site,” Richard Lehner, a Missile Defense Agency spokesman, wrote in an email.
The five-person agency team from Huntsville, Ala., spent Oct. 17 — the day the federal government reopened after a partial shutdown — at the Jericho facility, gathering information on land-parcel size, water resources, electrical power suitability and transportation access, Lehner wrote.
Lehner said the agency will also rely on a large amount of data that had been previously collected and published.
“The purpose of the visit was to collect and/or confirm data to use in the upcoming formal assessment process,” he wrote.
The Missile Defense Agency says the Pentagon’s current missile defense sites at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., are enough to protect the U.S. from a limited intercontinental ballistic missile attack. But recent defense legislation requires the Pentagon to study additional sites that might be suitable to protect the U.S. against threats from nations such as North Korea and Iran.
Neither country has missiles that could reach the United States, although they’ve been working on it for years.
Vermont’s congressional delegation and Gov. Peter Shumlin oppose a missile defense battery in the state.
Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., the most senior member of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, said in September he was “emphatically” against basing such a site in Vermont, calling the billions spent on missile defense a “monumental waste of money on technologically challenged systems.”
The other four possible sites for the Ground-based Midcourse Interceptor are the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center in Ohio, the NAS Portsmouth SERE Training Area in Maine, the Fort Custer CTC in Michigan and Fort Drum in New York.