The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency’s new western home will be a $1.6 billion, 800,000-square-foot enterprise employing 3,100. It is a prize that can change a local economy.
Yet treating this like a competition for a big-box retailer would be short-sighted. This decision is about national defense, and if evaluated on that central question then St. Clair County is obviously the right choice.
Scott Air Force Base is a major customer of NGA West and its maps and satellite imagery. Scott is headquarters for the U.S. Transportation Command, which uses satellite and map data to plan military movements. Scott is also home to the Defense Information Systems Agency, which works closely with NGA to protect data transmission.
As U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk recently pointed out, the obsolete NGA West in South St. Louis is linked to Scott by a vulnerable, 27.5-mile fiber-optic cable. Putting NGA on the base gives you a much-more secure cable measured in yards instead of miles.
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Just as the cable is more secure by being on the base, so too is NGA. There is an interstate nearby to get workers to the facility, but also open space for a secure buffer and military units to secure and defend it.
Our area is rich with retired military and well-educated high tech workers. They represent a hiring pool for NGA as well as a dedicated group of supporters and defenders.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers study of the four proposed sites is now gauging public support. This is where you can make a difference, just by showing up at the meeting from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Katy Cavins Community Center in O’Fallon.
Your attendance can boost security — at least of our local economy and at most of our nation’s defenses.