ANCHORAGE - The chief of the Army's space missile defense command said Monday that Alaska would likely host a national missile defense base if the half-billion-dollar project is built.
He also said Fort Greely appears to the state's best site.
Lt. Gen. John Costello, in Alaska to take a first-hand look at potential missile sites, said Shemya Island appears to be the best site for a powerful radar to track incoming missiles.
Costello said Fort Greely, near Delta Junction, southeast of Fairbanks, has a leg up on Clear Air Force Station, near Nenana, southwest of Fairbanks.
``Clear is not out of the question, but I think we're looking ... more closely at Greely now,'' he said.
If the missile base is built at Greely, Costello said, around 250 military personnel - most of them from the Alaska National Guard - and contract workers would be located there.
The cost of construction is estimated at more than $500 million. Costello said construction on Shemya could run more than $100 million.
The Defense Department is also looking at North Dakota, though officials believe the Alaska site would allow the missile defense system to cover the entire United States.
``If you had a race, Alaska is way ahead, OK?'' Costello said in a speech to the pro-development group Commonwealth North. ``But I can't make that decision, nor can I make that statement.''
The missile defense system's draft environmental impact statement is nearly finished and will be put out for public review.
A crucial test of missile technology, probably in late May, will seek to reverse a January test in which a missile failed to hit its target.
Top Russian officials have objected to proposed changes in the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty to allow for a U.S. missile defense system.