Officials urging feds to make Griffiss site of military defense system


ROME, N.Y. (WKTV) - Could the Griffiss International Airport in Rome once again become a major part of the nation's military defense system, and bring with it, hundreds of jobs?

Oneida County Executive Anthony Picente and Rome Mayor Joe Fusco have sent a letter to the United States Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, asking Hagel to consider the former Griffiss Air Force Base site in Rome as a potential location for what is expected to be the nation's East Cost Missle Defense System against possible strikes by Iran.

Picente says he believes the military history of the former base, along with its current makeup, makes the site a good choice. The Department of Defense is expected to conduct environmental impact studies soon, Picente said, which would help in the process of identifying the best site on the east coast.

"They've said it's something they're looking at, at least in this next calendar year, over a twelve month period," Picente said. "That's why we wanted to get the letter out as soon as possible, and start talking to our federal reps as well, which obviously, they're keyed in on that to take a look and see what can be done."

According to Picente, the National Research Council recommended three sites as possible locations for the East Coast Missile Defense System - Griffiss, Fort Drum in Watertown and Caribou, Maine.

County Executive Picente says he and Mayor Fusco sent the letter about ten days ago and so far have not heard back from Secretary of Defense Hagel.

"Oh, we've got as lot of acreage up there," said Mayor Fusco. "We still have the munitions bunker, the WSA area, all that is still pretty much still available, and like Tony said, we are willing to work with the DOD any way shape or form we can."

Having such a facility locally has some questioning whether the area could then become a target for terrorism due to it, but most spoken to on Friday, like Rome resident John Camastra, said they didn't feel worried.

"No, no, no....these guys are safe, don't worry about it," Camastra said. "You got guys like me watching. I was in the service for 20 years. Yeah, you're safe."

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