Missile defense project hailed in Delta Junction

Posted: Thursday, December 19, 2002

DELTA JUNCTION (AP) -- City, union and missile defense officials are waiting for details to emerge following President Bush's announcement that he is expanding the Ground-based Midcourse Defense missile program.

And they are hailing the prospect of expanded construction at Fort Greely near Delta Junction.

Preliminary information indicates the site will move from test bed status to deployment over the next two years, with an additional 10 silos to be added and equipped with missiles.

Work on six silos started earlier this year. Lt. Col. Jay Smith, chief of staff for the GMD Site Activation Command at Fort Richardson in Anchorage, said work will commence rapidly to have the first six silos, which were installed last summer, completed and fitted with missiles by the 2004 deadline.

Work will also begin on increasing the size of the pad where all 16 silos will be located.

''We'll probably expand the missile field to the east slightly to be able to accommodate the additional work,'' Smith told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.

Bush announced adding $1.5 billion to his budget to pay for expansion of the Space and Missile Defense program. The money is for work at Fort Greely and elsewhere.

Originally, Fort Greely was to house five active silos and a sixth one to be used for testing the technology. Tuesday's announcement means more work for the area's labor force.

''What it portends is more construction over a longer period, and it probably portends more permanent jobs over the long haul,'' Delta City Administrator Pete Hallgren said.

Local labor union leaders were upbeat.

''We look forward to continuing on there in Delta,'' said Tim Sharp, vice president of Laborers Union Local 942 in Fairbanks. ''It will definitely put more people to work.''

More than doubling the number of silos will not, however, mean the work force will expand accordingly, Sharp said. Much of the work done last summer, when as many as 400 people worked on the site itself, will not need to be duplicated because of the added silos. Site work, the silos themselves, some support facilities and utility connections to the silos will likely be part of an expansion plan.

The prospect for more work in Delta is heartening for companies like Delta Concrete, which supplied concrete and slurry to the missile site last summer. Matt Walker, who bought the company last July and secured the defense site contract, said the work will mean more employment for Delta.

Hallgren said the increased length and scope of the project should also increase confidence in the future of Delta Junction, continuing its economic recovery after Fort Greely closed in 2001.

''I think there is a feeling of pride at being able to do something for national defense,'' he said. ''All from Delta Junction, Alaska.''

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