- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 21, 2001

The Pentagon has given the go-ahead for construction to begin in the next few weeks on a missile-defense test site in Alaska.
A $9 million contract for clearing trees and building roads and utilities in central Alaska was awarded Friday, Pam Bain, a spokeswoman for the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization, said yesterday.
"The site preparation will be limited to clearing and grading of the site and installing preliminary utilities and road structures," Miss Bain said in an interview.
Land clearing will begin "within a week or so," she said.
The construction was judged legal under the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty by Pentagon lawyers in charge of treaty-compliance decisions, she said. The United States currently has no defenses against long-range ballistic missiles.
The U.S.-Soviet ABM Treaty bans the building of nationwide missile defenses and limits construction of strategic missile defenses those capable of knocking out incoming long-range missiles — to a single site.
The construction decision was made public Wednesday — the day after Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld returned from talks in Moscow with Russian officials on missile defenses and strategic arms cuts.
Russia is opposed to scrapping the ABM Treaty. The Bush administration has said it will seek changes in the pact, or withdraw from it, in order to be allowed to build effective missile defenses.
Mr. Rumsfeld was asked last week in a Los Angeles television interview why the Pentagon was moving ahead with the missile defense despite opposition from Russia and some European nations that want to preserve the ABM Treaty.
"There isn't any particular rush, except that we're engaged in a testing system, and the ABM Treaty prohibits testing in certain types of modes, and therefore we would not be able to experiment and do the research and development necessary to try to develop the ability to do that," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
The ABM Treaty may have made sense during the Cold War, but should now be "set aside" because there is a need for a system capable of countering missiles fired by rogue states, he said.
Victoria Clarke, the assistant defense secretary for public affairs, also said missile defenses are needed.
"We have several rogue states that are developing weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivery such as ballistic missiles," she told WAAM radio in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Friday. "It's a real threat — it's a growing threat — and it's a real obligation for us to try to develop a system to protect us from those threats."
The official construction announcement for the testing facility at the Army's Fort Greely, Alaska, base was published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.
The notice stated that construction on a portion of the 661,000-acre military base would begin without a final Pentagon decision on the exact type of missile-defense system that will be built. Also, congressional appropriations for final construction of the system have not been approved, the notice said.
Still, the Pentagon decided to go ahead with the Alaska construction because "the Department of Defense has determined that it is prudent to proceed with site preparation, and without congressional budgeting."
The notice also said the Bush administration authorized the building of the test site after finding that "there is a ballistic missile threat to the United States, and that developing an effective missile defense system is dependent upon operationally realistic testing of [its] elements."
"Fort Greely is a potential deployment location in Alaska for ground-based interceptor silos, battle management command and control facilities, and other support facilities for the Ground Based Midcourse Element, formerly called the National Missile Defense system," the notice said.
The notice said that "in the event of a missile attack on the United States, the test bed at Fort Greely could potentially be used for ballistic missile defense."
However, there are no plans at present to test-fire an interceptor from the site, it stated.
The native Alaskan company Aglaq Construction Enterprises Inc. was awarded the contract, Miss Bain said. The company is located in Point Hope, in northeastern Alaska on the Chukchi Sea. The company also won part of a $7 million contract in July to help build the Cape Lisburne Long Range Radar Site by 2003.
A spokesman for Aglaq could not be reached for comment.
Fort Greely, a former Army base, is located in central Alaska about 100 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
According to the official notice, the company will install two water wells and clear trees and debris for future construction of a single missile field and a main access road.
The testing site will allow the Pentagon's missile-defense office to find out whether interceptor missiles fired in a salvo against an incoming warhead will interfere with each other.
It also will be used to test communications between components of the missile-defense system and to test for fuel degradation in an arctic environment, the official notice stated.
The Pentagon has proposed spending $8 billion on missile defense in its latest budget proposal.


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