U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates reversed a decision to halt construction of the final seven missile interceptor silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, Missile Defense Agency spokesman Rick Lehner said Nov. 6.

The Defense Department, in submitting its 2010 budget request in April, decided to reduce the number of fielded interceptors in the nation’s primary strategic missile defense system from 44 to 30. As part of that decision, one of the missile fields at Ft. Greely that was originally planned to house 14 interceptors for the Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) system was pared back to seven. Boeing Integrated Defense Systems of St. Louis is the prime contractor for the system.

Gates’ reversal means all 14 silos will now be completed. The Pentagon still plans to field only 30 interceptors, but the additional silos would allow the United States to deploy the original total of 44 interceptors between Alaska and California if desired.

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, applauded Gates’ decision.

“News that all the silos at Missile Field 2 will be completed is a welcome decision that will decrease the risk of the ever evolving ballistic missile threats from rogue nations by increasing capacity required to defend the United States,” Begich said in an Oct. 27 press release. “I hope to continue talks about expanding the capacity and capabilities of Fort Greely’s missile defense system with the Department of Defense.”