After a meeting in Washington, D.C., federal lawmakers who represent southwestern Illinois issued a letter Friday detailing their “strong concerns” with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s April 1 rationale for preliminarily selecting a site for its new $1.6 billion facility, known as NGA West, in North St. Louis and not St. Clair County.
In the letter, the lawmakers — U.S. senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and U.S. representatives Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; John Shimkus, R-Collinsville and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville — laid out factual inaccuracies and other concerns relating to the NGA site selection process, which will determine a replacement for the current NGA facility just south of downtown St. Louis where 3,100 employees work.
“We are shocked that any fair analysis of southern Illinois could conclude anything other than the area has a strong, enduring track record of recruiting and maintaining a highly-skilled workforce of all ages, offers a plethora of financial and quality of life advantages for employees, and has a proven track record of supporting national security missions, which is second-to-none,” according to the letter.
Earlier this week, Durbin held a meeting with Kirk and Bost to discuss the site selection process for the new NGA facility with St. Clair County Board Chairman Mark Kern, former U.S. Rep. Jerry Costello, D-Belleville, and retired Air Force Gen. Duncan McNabb.
The letter issued Friday slams the Army Corps of Engineers report for containing major factual errors and for failing to take into account possible toxic chemical contamination at the remnants of the 57-acre Pruitt-Igoe housing complex next to the proposed NGA West site. The lawmakers’ letter also criticizes the Corps of Engineers, which conducted the study of potential sites, for not appreciating the superior security offered by the St. Clair County site, adjacent to Scott Air Force Base.
On April 1, the NGA announced that the agency’s preliminary preference for the new NGA West campus was the site in North St. Louis, and not the St. Clair County site.
The NGA is a Department of Defense Intelligence Agency that makes maps and other data tools based on satellite imagery.
Although the public comment period on this decision was initially just two weeks, on April 8, NGA Director Robert Cardillo extended the deadline through May 2 upon the request of Kirk, Durbin, Bost, Shimkus, and Davis.