Ryan discusses missile defense site

Has spoken to Mattis about Camp Ravenna

Tribune Chronicle / Renee Fox U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan, D-Howland, left, toured Camp Ravenna on Tuesday, one week after discussing the military installation with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. Ryan and others are pushing to get a missile defense site at Camp Ravenna, but two other locations are still being considered. Maj. Gen. John Harris, right, Ohio National Guard assistant adjutant general for the Army, said Camp Ravenna would be the perfect location for the missile site.

CAMP RAVENNA — U.S. Rep. Timothy J. Ryan discussed bringing a missile defense site to Camp Ravenna with Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis last week, but Mattis needs more time to decide between the camp, two other locations and whether the Department of Defense still wants to pursue the East Coast project.

“I wanted to communicate directly to the president and let him know that we are hoping that this could be an opportunity that he could help us with,” Ryan said. “It’s an opportunity to give a community that needs it an economic shot in the arm.”

Ryan on Tuesday toured Camp Ravenna and said the effort to bring the $3.6 billion missile defense site to the area might be a “long shot” but worth fighting for more than $220 million in economic benefits, 850 permanent new jobs and 2,300 construction jobs.

“It will have a ripple effect throughout the region,” Ryan, D-Howland, said.

Fort Drum in New York and Fort Custer in Michigan also are being considered, and the administration could opt to end or shift the project to another region, Ryan said.

Though a decision for the selection was expected after a review of the country’s strategic missile defense systems, Mattis still has questions to answer, Ryan said.

“When I talked to Secretary Mattis last week, he said he wanted to go back and gather more information,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he isn’t sure about the timeline and Mattis did not tell him what questions he still had before making his selection.

If the project were to land at the base, it would take up about 1,100 acres, and operations on about 20,000 acres would remain the same.

The base is strategically located near universities, the port in Columbiana County, next to an active rail line, new water and sewer lines and has plenty of space, Ryan said.

“We want to continue to build out Camp Ravenna. I think in a lot of peoples’ minds, for those of us who grew up here, this was seen as the old arsenal and really, it has converted itself into a modern training facility that is used by all branches of the military,” Ryan said.

A new shooting range, featuring virtual and live firing, is set to open near the end of summer, Ryan said.

But it’s possible the administration might not even pursue a new site for the East Coast.

“Anything is possible. Especially with the tight constraints the budget has now, that could happen. They could say, ‘Look, we’re worried about North Korea more so than the East Coast,'” Ryan said.

“If you look at the new national defense strategy, it has changed the calculation, moving away from ISIS and counter-terrorism and moving toward near-peer adversaries like Russia and China. … We have to be prepared for both.”

U.S. Sens. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, and Rob Portman, R-OH, on Monday announced the president’s budget proposal includes $7.4 million that would help construct an automated multipurpose machine gun range at the Camp. Brown wrote to Secretary of Defense James Mattis in January to request the funding.

“The national guardsmen and women serving our country at Camp Ravenna deserve the best tools and facilities available as they train for future missions,” said Brown. “This investment will provide important support to our Citizen-Soldiers at the joint training center and the entire National Guard, and I will continue working to secure it in the final budget Congress passes next month.”

“Camp Ravenna’s strategic location in Northeast Ohio, optimal size, access to robust regional infrastructure and professional Ohio National Guard staff make the base one of the premier Army training centers in the region. A new automated multi-purpose machine gun range will give the Ohio Army National Guard an important, new training capability,” Portman said. “It will provide our soldiers a realistic environment to meet their training requirements that currently is not available in the state. As our men and women in uniform confront the harsh realities we face in the world and take the steps they need to confront them, it is important they have the training, equipment, and facilities they need,” Portman said.