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A good spot

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Few military projects have been as controversial and misunderstood as the concept of an anti-ballistic missile defense system.

Opponents have said that employing missile defense would be like trying to shoot a bullet with a bullet. When Ronald Reagan touted the idea during his presidency to put more pressure on the Soviet Union, his critics dismissed his Strategic Defense Initiative as pure fantasy and labeled it as “Star Wars.”

Some of what Mr. Reagan envisioned for missile defense was ethereal. Despite his good intentions, he will not be looked upon as an effective ambassador for missile defense anytime soon.

But the reality is that the idea of developing a missile defense system did not begin during Mr. Reagan’s tenure in the White House. Even on a crude scale, missile defense had been in development for years before the Reagan administration began promoting SDI.

When the United States announced in 2001 that it was withdrawing from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Defense Treaty, signed in 1972 with the Soviet Union, this opened the door to increased development. Through trial and error, we have since moved this measure forward.

One of the goals of the Missile Defense Agency has been to identify a good site for a missile interceptor facility based on the East Coast. The agency released its narrowed list of five favored locations last week, and Fort Drum made the cut.

One of the advantages of Fort Drum is that funding for a missile defense data terminal complex is included in the 2013 fiscal year defense authorization bill and construction is about to begin.This isn’t a guarantee of Fort Drum’s selection, but being the only location on the shortlist with this designation is a definite plus.

Increasing the capabilities of Fort Drum would enhance its value as a military installation. And it’s no secret that the presence of Fort Drum in our community has had tremendous economic benefits.

Will we ever develop a practical missile defense system? It’s very likely as researchers have been progress in refining it. There are obviously many problems to confront, but the United States has a history of overcoming technological challenges.

It may not be foolproof, but this system could prove quite capable of protecting us from missiles launched by our adversaries and despots. Critics argue that countermeasures to missile defense systems could be used, such as a missile deploying multiple warheads. But being incredibly complex and expensive, these countermeasures would be out of reach of the rogue states most likely to use missiles against us.

Americans need to have a frank discussion about whether we need a missile defense or if we can afford it. But in the meantime, the words of U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., sum up our sentiments:

“As long as military experts determine that a new missile defense system on the East Coast is necessary, workable and cost-effective, I will continue to urge the Department of Defense to consider Fort Drum for the job.”

Well put. Fort Drum is an ideal location for this investment in America’s future, and the north county will be proud to host another asset that strengthens our collective safety.

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