A decade from now, Battle Creek could be a key component of the nation’s missile defense program.
Fort Custer is one of several sites in the eastern U.S. being reviewed for an expansion of a missile interceptor system.
Lt. Colonel Chris Snipes says the missile defense system is the equivalent of “hitting a bullet with another bullet.” It’s been in development since the 1980s. Snipes says it’s similar to the Iron Dome system the Israeli military has been using to stop rockets being fired from Gaza by Hamas.
But the U.S. missile defense system sets its sights higher.
Snipes says the focus of the Defense Department’s Missile Defense Agency is now to prepare for the potential threat of intercontinental ballistic missiles from Iran and North Korea.
“North Korea has launched … satellites into outer space. They have that technology and it’s not a far leap to progress to the next level,” says Snipes. “If we wait until those threats appear, we’re too late to defend the homeland.”
The Department of Defense - Missile Defense Agency held a public meeting last night in Battle Creek to get input on the potential environment impact of the project. A second public meeting is scheduled for Thursday.
Lt. Col. Mark Gorzynski is the commander of the Fort Custer Training Center. He would like to see the missile complex built in Battle Creek.
“It’s going to be built somewhere to safeguard the homeland. It needs to be built in Fort Custer,” says Gorzynski.
Gorzynski says the civilian and military personnel at the missile complex would be separate from the 225 full-time civilian and military employees at the base now.
Defense Department officials say building the missile complex would create about 400 construction jobs.
Once the complex is up and running, Defense Department officials say between 1,200 and 1,800 civilian employees and military personnel would work at Fort Custer.
An environmental review of the potential site will take until probably mid-2016.
Lt. Col. Snipes says Congress has yet to approve funding for the missile complex. If it does, he says construction will take at least five years.
People at tonight’s public expressed some concern about making Battle Creek a military target. But more were interested in the potential jobs the missile complex may deliver.