Camp Ravenna ideal for site

If the last 10 years have taught us anything, it is that there are radical forces around the world that want to do us harm, and we must be prepared to defend ourselves against their attacks. Paramount among those dangers is the threat posed by rogue nations like North Korea and Iran.

We know that these countries are pursuing nuclear weapons. We also know that they are pursuing the missile technology they need to deliver those weapons to our shores. While the United States must continue to apply diplomatic pressure to try and convince these nations to abandon their nuclear ambitions, we also need to be prepared for the worst as their capabilities increase. We cannot afford to be complacent in the face of these growing threats.

One way to be prepared is to develop and strengthen our critical missile defense capabilities. Today, because of work done during the administration of George W. Bush to defend our cities from threats by North Korea, the West Coast of the United States is protected by missile defense sites in Alaska and Northern California. But our system is incomplete; no such defensive capabilities are in place on the eastern seaboard.

As Iran continues its march toward a nuclear capability that could threaten cities along the East Coast, it is imperative that we finish what we started. Congress included a provision in the 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) instructing the Department of Defense to begin an evaluation of possible missile defense sites in the eastern United States.

The addition of a third missile defense site would be a true game-changer for our current system’s capabilities. It would enable our missile defense system to engage incoming threats, regardless of their geographic points of origin. As importantly, it would create a multi-layered system that would give us what the military calls a ”shoot-look-shoot” capability.

For the first time, we would be able to attempt to intercept an incoming missile, look to see if the target was destroyed, and then make the needed adjustments and fire again if necessary.

After the initial round of site evaluations, the Camp Ravenna Joint Military Training Center, which straddles Trumbull and Portage counties, was selected as one of five potential missile defense sites. In the coming months, the Missile Defense Agency will select at least three of these sites for additional evaluation, as required by the NDAA. I recently sent a letter expressing my strong support for Camp Ravenna’s candidacy to Vice Admiral James Syring, the Director of the Missile Defense Agency.

Earlier this week, I visited Camp Ravenna and was able to see first-hand why it deserves to be in this group. The site is uniquely suited to delivering this enhanced capability to defend our cities from rogue nations that acquire nuclear weapons. The base’s strategic geographic location in Northeast Ohio, optimal size, access to the region’s robust infrastructure, and cost-effective and professional Ohio National Guard staff make it ideal for this important role.

In addition, placing such a site at Camp Ravenna would have minimal impact on other competing priorities for property owned by the Defense Department, a critical consideration when budget constraints mean funding is scarce.

There are some who argue that we shouldn’t expand our missile defense at all. I wish I believed that the administration’s negotiations with the Iranians will finally convince them to abandon their nuclear ambitions, or that we could trust that the North Korean dictator would never use his weapons against us. Unfortunately, we must prepare for the worst case scenario.

I will continue to fight for Camp Ravenna’s inclusion in this process. That is the right thing to do not only for Ohio, but also for our national security.

Portman, R-Ohio, is a member of the United States Senate.