The tug-of-war between Illinois and Missouri over the location of the highly coveted new western headquarters for the $1.75 billion National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency took a new turn Thursday. That’s when U.S. Rep. Mike Bost, R-Murphysboro, decried an effort by some Missouri House members to insert, late Wednesday night, into a military construction spending bill an extra $801,000 for “land and transfer acquisition activities” for the site in North St. Louis that has won preliminary approval for NGA West.
“The other side of the river is appropriating funds that have yet to be authorized,” Bost said in a statement issued late Thursday afternoon. “Until the House and Senate negotiate a final compromise on military construction, this is nothing more than a hollow victory. We still have ample opportunity to fight for an investigation into the serious flaws and omissions that plagued the site selection process.”
The effort by U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Ballwin, to insert the $801,000 expenditure into the bill appeared to undermine Bost’s campaign to bring the NGA West campus to a 182-acre site in St. Clair County adjacent to Scott Air Force Base. Bost had earlier raised the possibility that funds meant to facilitate the transfer of land in North St. Louis could be withheld as a way of putting a hold on the project while Bost and other Illinois lawmakers — including U.S. senators Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Mark Kirk, R-Ill. — press their case for why the St. Clair County site is a better option than the site in North St. Louis.
The Illinois lawmakers’ argument, which they pressed in a meeting with NGA Director Robert Cardillo earlier this month, centers on their argument that the Army Corps of Engineers report that guided Cardillo’s decision-making was deeply flawed.
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The document, known as a Final Environmental Impact Statement, or FEIS, contained a number of factual errors in the comparison between the two sites and that it underplayed the security advantages of the St. Clair County site — including proximity to a military installation and a 1,000-foot setback distance from any roads that would protect the site from terrorist bomb attacks.
Cardillo is scheduled to announce his final decision as to NGA’s location on June 2.
The NGA, a secretive Defense Department intelligence agency that makes maps based on satellite imagery, announced two years ago it needs a new home for its western headquarters. It is currently housed at the 190-year-old St. Louis Arsenal just south of downtown St. Louis. The NGA must move because it needs more room to grow and modern infrastructure, such as heating-and-cooling systems.
Construction on the NGA site is set to begin in mid-2017 with completion set for 2021.