Michigan lawmakers support expanding ineffective missile defense system because it will bring jobs

May 26, 2017

Michigan is one of three states waiting on the Trump administration to review a missile defense system base. Fort Custer located between Kalamazoo and Battle Creek is one site being considered for the interceptor missile base. The other two are Camp Ravenna in Ohio and Fort Drum in New York.

Michigan’s entire Congressional delegation supports the Fort Custer site.

These interceptor missiles are called the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system (GMD). They’re designed to intercept incoming nuclear missiles.

Here’s the problem: the GMD system is flawed.

The L.A. Times reported during tests the interceptors failed to destroy their targets six out of 11 times in tests. That’s a dismal record when the job is to intercept nuclear missiles from Iran, or another hostile country.

David Willman, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter, wrote that story for the L.A. Times and he joined Stateside to talk about why there are some reservations about a flawed missile defense system with a $40 billion price tag.

"Various reports from independent scientific entities that even have sponsorship from the Pentagon have said that the Ground-based Midcourse Defense system is not capable of providing an effective defense even against a limited attack from a non-superpower," Willman said. "In February of last year, the Government Accountability Office, which is the non-partisan investigative arm of Congress, reported that the test records for this Homeland Missile Defense System have been 'insufficient to demonstrate that an operationally useful defense capability exists.'" 

The Michigan Members of Congress who want the GMD system to be located at Fort Custer argue that locating the interceptor there would mean $700 million in new construction, would employ 300 people directly and lead to about 1,800 support jobs. At a cost of tens of billions of dollars of taxpayer money, most would agree that's not a big return on investment.

Former Congressman Joe Schwarz, who is lobbying for the government to choose Fort Custer for the GMD, agrees. However, his position on this issue is from an economic development standpoint and is colored by his experience as the former Mayor of Battle Creek, and a former state legislator who served that part of the state.

"If in fact, the Missile Defense Agency comes to the conclusion, and the [Trump] administration comes to the conclusion that the Eastern United States missile defense facility should be built, I'm doing all I can to see that it's built in Battle Creek," Schwarz said.

Listen to the full interview above to hear about environmental concerns with the base, how long it could take to get approved, and if a flawed missile defense system is better than no missile defense system.

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