ANCHORAGE - A contractor for the Army began clearing land at Fort Greely on Monday for an anti-ballistic missile site.
Workers will spend at least a couple days of clearing with a hydro ax, a huge mower that can splinter brush and small trees, then start grading the area to prepare for the missile silos, according to the Army Corps of Engineers. Fort Greely is a mothballed Army base near Delta Junction, about 80 miles southeast of Fairbanks.
Contracts haven't yet been issued for any silos or buildings, according to John Killoran, a spokesman for the Army Corps of Engineers.
"That whole issue is in Washington," he said, where Congress and the administration will decide what development takes place.
If the Army gets the go-ahead, Killoran said, "the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization will them move as fast as they can to get contracts out to do the actual site construction. But no one knows at this point when and if" that will happen.
The Pentagon is hoping to start work next spring if the money comes through. Killoran said contract for the site preparation work calls for it to be completed by the middle of December.
The ground work is being done through a nearly $5 million contract awarded to Aglaq Construction Enterprises, a subsidiary of Point Hope Native Corp. Brice Inc. of Fairbanks is the subcontractor for much of the work.
The contractor will clear the land, build an access road, and dig a couple wells for the future construction of missile silos and associated facilities in an area about a quarter-mile south of Greely's main post. The fort has been essentially vacant since July.
In the first phase, missiles would be stored in up to five silos at Fort Greely, then shipped to Kodiak for test launches for the proposed missile defense system. The military hopes to have the Fort Greely and Kodiak facilities ready for those tests to begin in two years.
After that, test launches might be conducted from Fort Greely itself.
Eventually, the post could be the main site for a full-blown national missile shield with up to 100 interceptor missiles launched from there in case of an attack. But that is many years and many billions of dollars down the road.
Military officials have said the goal behind the system is to counter accidental launches, terrorism or attacks from "rogue nations," rather than an all-out nuclear assault from Russia or China.a