Two senior military officers have told a key senator that there remains “no validated military requirement” for East Coast missile defenses despite congressional proposals to deploy such a capability.

In a June 10 letter to a Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.), Navy Vice Adm. J.D. Syring, director of the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), and Army Lt. Gen. Richard Formica, commander of the Joint Functional Command for Integrated Missile Defense, wrote that the Department of Defense continues to explore a possible ground-based interceptor missile site on the East Coast to complement existing ones in Alaska and California. But they said sensor enhancements would be the most cost-effective near-term approach for improving homeland missile defense.

“There is no validated military requirement to deploy an East Coast missile defense site,” the officers wrote. “While a potential East Coast site would add operational capability, it would also come at significant materiel development and service sustainment costs.”

The officers drafted the letter in response to Levin’s June 6 request for more information about the potential East Coast site. Levin publicly released the Syring-Formica letter late June 11, the day before his committee was scheduled to consider the fiscal 2014 defense authorization bill. Levin said the proposed East Coast site would cost at least $3 billion.

Air Force Gen. Robert Kehler, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, echoed the Syring-Formica comments June 12.

The “next steps” in homeland missile defense are to pursue sensor and command-and-control improvements “while we look at whether or not we need an East Coast missile field and, if so, when,” Kehler told Aerospace Digest after speaking at a Capitol Hill seminar. “I think you have to take this in order.”

On June 5, as part of deliberations on its version of the defense authorization bill, the House Armed Services Committee approved an amendment by Rep. Michael Turner (R-Ohio) to require MDA to field an East Coast site by fiscal year 2018. The amendment cites the need to improve defenses against long-range ballistic missiles from Iran.

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Marc Selinger is a journalist based in the Washington, D.C., area. He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @marcselinger.