Metro-East News

In letter to NGA director, Illinois Congressional leaders make big push for Scott site

U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk AP

The entire Illinois U.S. Congressional delegation — both of the senators and 18 U.S. House representatives — signed a joint letter Tuesday that urges Robert Cardillo, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency director, to pick St. Clair County as the site for the spy agency’s new $1.6 billion NGA West campus and the 3,100 jobs that will come with it.

The two-page letter lays out the most detailed set of arguments yet on why the NGA West campus belongs in St. Clair County, on a 182-acre site adjacent to Scott Air Force Base, and not on the 99-acre North St. Louis site that Missouri leaders are pushing.

The letter was sent to Cardillo five weeks before Cardillo is scheduled to announce the winner in the hotly fought competition.

In the letter’s opening paragraph, its authors called the St. Clair County site “the best possible new home” for the NGA facility.

“As the home of Scott Air Force Base for almost 100 years, St. Clair County is the clearly superior choice in every respect, including mission security, anti-terrorism/force protection, and workforce safety,” the letter states. It was signed by senators Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, and Mark Kirk, R-Illinois, the metro-east’s three Congressmen — John Shimkus, R-Collinsville; Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro; and Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville — and 15 other House members.

As the home of Scott Air Force Base for almost 100 years, St. Clair County is the clearly superior choice in every respect, including mission security, anti-terrorism/force protection, and workforce safety.

Letter from Illinois Congressional delegation

The lawmakers’ letter was submitted to Cardillo at the same time that St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and Missouri state lawmakers have stepped up their efforts to bring NGA to the St. Louis neighborhood, a campaign focused primarily on how NGA West will bring badly needed jobs and economic revitalization to a St. Louis neighborhood in need of a helping hand.

NGA’s current home is near the St. Louis riverfront, just north of the Anheuser-Busch brewery and on the grounds of the 180-year-old St. Louis Arsenal. NGA needs a new home because its current location is too cramped and requires greater operational security.

A week ago, Slay told a Missouri state senate committe that losing NGA would harm the city’s financial prospects.

“We can meet all the needs that they have,” Slay told the Missouri Senate rules committee, which is considering a non-binding resolution to ask NGA to build its new campus in St. Louis.

“Whatever you’ve got to do, go get it and we’ll back you up on the cost,” said Sen. Ron Richard, R-Joplin, the Missouri Senate’s president pro-tem.

In their letter to Cardillo, Durbin, Kirk and the other Illinois lawmakers acknowledged that NGA West will bring positive economic impacts to St. Clair County.

“But ultimately,” the lawmakers wrote, “military siting decisions must foremost be based upon what is best for the command its ability to carry out its mission. Within the context of current security challenges, both foreign and domestic, the lawmakers wrote, they “believe there is no question that the Scott AFB/St. Clair County site is in a class by itself and should be chose as the new home for NGA West.”

The Illinois lawmakers cite a litany of reasons for building NGA West in St. Clair County, including “superior transportation infrastructure” that’s been enhanced by a new Interstate 64 exit at Rieder road. Also cited is the fact that two of NGA’s biggest customers — the Defense Information Systems Agency and the U.S. Transportation Command — are based at Scott.

Also, relocating NGA to Scott “will eliminate any potential disruption of data transmission associated with the existing 27-mile fiber-optic cable linking NGA’s Missouri facilities with Scott AFB,” according to the letter.

As for NGA workers, Scott’s new military family housing may be available to rent to certain NGA personnel, while the agency’s active duty, reserve and retired military employees would be eligible to use the Scott commissary and other base amenities, according to the letter.

Construction on the NGA West site is set to begin in 2017, with the scheduled completion date on the 800,000-square-foot structure set for early 2021.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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