General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Commanding General of Fort Drum and the 10th Mountain Division, recently told Congress during a defense budget hearing that he supports the development of a new missile defense site on Fort Drum.

“I personally think developing those systems on the East Coast would be helpful and it would further enhance the protection [of the] United States,” Milley said.

In 2019, the Department of Defense chose Fort Drum over two other eastern communities to be the home of a third missile defense site. However, it was picked with the understanding that it wasn't actually going to be built.

Many outside of the military question the effectiveness of missile defense on new technology, while some in the military want the time, the money and the effort to be put towards the two sites that already do exist – one in Alaska and the other in California.

“It would probably take a decade to actually put that in. It would take billions; I don't know exact cost figures, but take billions,” Milley said of a Fort Drum site.

So why the continued push?

It's not only about the jobs and economic impact a site would have on the North Country, but Rep. Elise Stefanik, whose district covers Fort Drum, believes a new capability threat — Iran — calls for action.

“Iran has never been closer to a nuclear weapons capability and has demonstrated a space launch capability which has a direct technical application to an ICBM,” Stefanik said.

“If they were to develop the ICBM level of missiles, which they haven't yet, but if they do and they're developing the piece parts with space launch vehicles, and if they were to then develop a nuclear weapon to put on top of that, that's where it becomes important,” Milley added.

How close is Iran to actually having those capabilities? Milley says that's being monitored by and will be determined by the intelligence community.

Milley says while Alaska and California better protect against a threat like North Korea, having a site on the east coast would better protect the country from a threat from the Middle East.