From Illinois Business Journal news services
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Letters and personal meetings are among the measures Illinois political leaders are using to sway support for ground near Scott Air Force Base as the new site for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin and Mark Kirk led members of the Illinois Congressional Delegation in a letter expressing their support for Scott Air Force Base’s bid to house the agency, known as NGA West. Although many members have expressed their individual support for Scott’s bid to house the new facility, the letter to NGA Director Robert Cardillo is said to be a strong representation of unified support for the proposal from the bipartisan group representing communities across Illinois.
Additionally, Southwestern Illinois Congressmen John Shimkus and Mike Bost and others met with NGA head Cardillo on Wednesday to make their pitch.
The Illinois site is one of four options being considered. Three other sites in the St. Louis region. The current outdated headquarters is located in south St. Louis and a decision is to be announced at the end of March on a new site. Some 3,000 jobs are at stake.
Bost, R-Murphysboro, and Shimkus, R-Collinsville, participated in the meeting along with representatives from the offices of Rodney Davis, R-Taylorville, Senator Kirk and Gov. Bruce Rauner.
“Any objective observer would come to the conclusion that the St. Clair County site makes the most sense in terms of cost, infrastructure access, and national security,” Bost said afterward. “In a world that seems to become more unstable by the day, it is critical that our intelligence community have the tools to do their jobs effectively. The site adjacent to Scott Air Force Base provides NGA with the best efficiencies, synergies and force protection capabilities available.”
Shimkus said the location should be based upon what’s best for the agency and its mission, not what’s most politically expedient. … By every measure and metric that matters, the St. Clair County site adjacent to Scott AFB is the obvious and best choice.”
In the letter, the Illinois members also highlighted the benefits of locating the new facility in St. Clair County for NGA’s military and civilian employees.
“The Southwestern Illinois community is widely recognized as one of the most supportive military communities in the nation. Southwestern Illinois is proud to be known as “Scott Country” – and eagerly awaits the opportunity to expand that military-friendly identity to include “NGA Country” as well.”
The NGA is an intelligence agency responsible for collecting, classifying and analyzing human activity around the world and providing map-based imagery data crucial to U.S. intelligence gathering. Its current St. Louis location is 100 years old and NGA has concluded that it would be too expensive to modernize the existing structure. The agency is expected to make a final decision by spring 2016 after examining the finalist sites’ costs, relative merits and environmental qualities.
The full text of the letter follows:
February 9, 2015
Mr. Robert Cardillo
National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency
7500 GEOINT Drive
Springfield, Virginia 22150
Dear Mr. Cardillo:
We write to strongly recommend St. Clair County/Scott Air Force Base as the best possible new home for the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency/West (NGA-West). As the home of Scott Air Force Base (AFB) for almost 100 years, St. Clair County is the clearly superior choice in every respect, including mission security, antiterrorism/force protection, and workforce safety.
The proposed 182-acre Illinois site is immediately adjacent to the northern boundary of Scott Air Force Base and will, in effect, function as an extension of Scott’s secure military campus. St. Clair County will provide this entire site – and, if requested, an additional contiguous 200 acres – to NGA at no cost, including any necessary utilities extensions. In addition, the Illinois site is shovel-ready. Unlike other sites under consideration, this entire property has one owner: St. Clair County. It currently consists entirely of farm fields and will present no environmental or infrastructure-related barriers to on-time and on-budget construction.
As you know, the Defense Information Systems Agency-CONUS and the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) – both headquartered at Scott AFB – are two of NGA West’s largest agency clients. Relocating NGA West to Scott AFB site is not only the logical choice from the standpoint of mission synergy, it will also eliminate any potential disruption of data transmission associated with the existing 27-mile fiber-optic cable linking NGA’s Missouri facilities with Scott AFB.
As an enhancement to mission synergy, the recently opened Midwest Cyber Center of Excellence adjacent to Scott AFB will work with NGA to ensure a well-trained supply of qualified Cyber workers.
St. Clair County also offers the strongest possible benefit to NGA-West’s military and civilian personnel. The Southwestern Illinois community is widely recognized as one of the most supportive military communities in the nation. The Air Force Times ranked Scott AFB as the Number-One Base for Airmen in America, and the Scott-area community has won the coveted Air Mobility Command Community Support Award (“Abilene Trophy”) in two of the past three years. More than 650 local businesses participate in the Scott Patriot Program, pledging to provide discounted goods and services to Scott personnel and their families and to hire veterans and service members’ spouses. Southwestern Illinois is proud to be known as “Scott Country” – and eagerly awaits the opportunity to expand that military-friendly identity to include “NGA Country” as well.
Selecting St. Clair County would also provide a number of conveniences and benefits for NGA’s military and civilian employees:
• Superior Transportation Infrastructure, including the new Interstate 64 Exit 21 at Rieder Road and associated access road improvements for increased vehicle access to Scott-NGA security gates.
• The Shiloh-Scott MetroLink station is less than three miles from the site, and St. Clair County has indicated its willingness to extend MetroLink to a new station at the NGA site.
• MetroLink and other mass transit riders will be eligible for full fare reimbursement under the Department of Defense Mass Transportation Benefit Program, which could save NGA military and civilian employees more than $3,000 annually.
• School districts in communities surrounding Scott AFB are consistently ranked among the best in the region – and area colleges and universities offer a broad array of continuing higher education opportunities.
• NGA’s Active Duty, Reserve, and Retired military employees are eligible to use the Scott AFB Commissary and other base amenities.
• Scott’s new and modern Military Family Housing may be available for rent to certain NGA personnel, depending upon vacancy rates.
You are no doubt well aware that during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, the Infrastructure Executive Council (IEC) recommended closing the NGA installations at 2nd Street, St. Louis, Missouri, and Arnold, Missouri; and relocating all functions “to a new facility at Scott Air Force Base.” As you know, the NGA West relocation recommendation was removed from the Secretary of Defense’s final list at the very last minute – and reportedly “postponed” – due to intelligence budget constraints.
The 2005 BRAC recommendations to relocate both NGA East and West were based upon several justifications, including the importance of locating and upgrading facilities on protected installations; improving mission synergy by collocating functions; improving continuity-of-operations/mission assurance capabilities; and enhancing antiterrorism/force protection. In addition, the recommendation’s military judgment included the following about Scott AFB: “Best location for NGA’s intelligence mission; enables continued coordination with mission partners and support to national intelligence customers; better access to communications networks; better support for NGA military personnel; improves AT/FP for NGA facilities and workforce.”
We appreciate that relocating NGA West to Scott AFB will provide considerable economic benefits to St. Clair County and the Southwestern Illinois region – and we will welcome those impacts. But ultimately, military siting decisions must foremost be based upon what is best for the command and its ability to carry out its mission. On that basis, and in the context of current security challenges both foreign and domestic, we maintain that the 2005 BRAC recommendation is even more valid today. Consequently, we believe there is no question that the Scott AFB/St. Clair County site is in a class by itself and should be chosen as the new home for NGA West.
Thank you for your consideration.
Richard J. Durbin, Mark Kirk
United States Senators
Bobby L. Rush
Members of Congress