A metro-east economic development group has hired former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello as part of a consulting team that will work to keep Scott Air Force Base open.
Ellen Krohne, executive director of Leadership Council Southwestern Illinois, said she does not expect base closures in the next year but the team was assembled to prepare for the next round of Base Realignment and Closure in 2015.
"We feel the time is now to make this investment in Scott Air Force Base for the region and to make sure we have the right people helping us," Krohne said.
The council's contract is with Smith Dawson & Andrews, a Washington, D.C.-based government relations firm. Costello and retired Air Force Gen. Duncan McNabb will work with the firm.
Costello, a Belleville Democrat from the 12th Congressional District, retired in January after nearly 25 years in Congress. He formed The Jerry Costello Group LLC in 2013 and, in April, secured a $7,000 per month lobbying contract with the Madison County Transit District.
Krohne said the council sought Costello and McNaab because of their credibility and knowledge, and their familiarity with SAFB.
"McNaab has a clear understanding of what the future of the military is... and Costello did much work during his 12 terms as a congressman to grow the Air Force base," Krohne said.
McNaab retired from the Air Force in 2011 after 37 years of service. He has served as commander of the U.S. Transportation Command and the Air Mobility Command at SAFB, among other roles.
One of the consultant team's first tasks will be to assess the base's strengths and weaknesses, and then figure out how the base can effectively prepare for anticipated Department of Defense cuts.
The team also will determine how the base should grow in the short and long term, keeping in mind the defense cuts and sequestration of this year.
The initial contract with the consulting team is for 14 months, but the council expects the contract to last about four to five years, Krohne said.
The contract prohibits the consultants from representing other Air Force bases.
The council budgeted $1.7 to $2.3 million over five years for the consultants. Krohne said the contract does not break down how much Costello and McNaab would earn individually.
The consulting work is part of a $3.2 million campaign to protect and grow Scott Air Force Base that was announced by the council last week.
Krohne said the campaign will draw mostly from private entities, as was the case in 2005, when the council raised more than $3 million to support SAFB in that year's BRAC.
The St. Clair and Madison County boards have each approved $50,000 to the campaign.
The council and two counties are co-sponsors of the Scott Air Force Base and Southwestern Illinois Defense Assets Retention and Expansion Task Force.
The task force, created in May, aims to retain and expand SAFB, and task force members will work with the consulting team.
Krohne said efforts by the council and area partners were not only successful in preserving SAFB through previous rounds of BRAC in 1995 and 2005, but in helping to grow the economic impact of the base by 40 percent in the last 10 years.