WASHINGTON – The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency may relocate to St. Clair County, Ill., in a few months.
A bipartisan group met Wednesday to talk about the potential move. The group included staff from the offices of Gov. Bruce Rauner, R-Ill., Sens. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., and Dick Durbin, D-Ill., and Reps. Rodney Davis, R.-Ill., Mike Bost, R-Ill., and John Shimkus, R-Ill.
The officials met with NGA Director Robert Cardillo to talk about why they think St. Clair County is the best location for the NGA.
NGA is part of the Defense Department. It gathers information about geography using satellite and other imaging to produce maps for specific locations or missions. It supplies information to other intelligence agencies, the military and policy makers. Its data are used by ships, people responding to natural disasters and cellphone navigation programs.
St. Clair County is one of four prospective locations for the new agency office. The agency headquarters is in the Washington area, and it has two locations in Missouri that will be consolidated into one new site.
Bost said with Scott Air Force Base in St. Clair County, the proposed site is the most secure area in the U.S. for quick distribution of data.
“That’s what’s also vitally important to me as a congressman is what this does for the United States: centrally located, highest technology, the ability to expand and sensible cost,” he said.
After the Army Corps of Engineers completes an environmental impact study on the four locations, the NGA director will make a decision. After that, there will be a 30 to 60 day questioning period for the general public. The three other locations are Fenton, Mehville and St. Louis, Mo.
A final decision will be made at the end of May.
Shimkus said the likelihood of St. Clair County being chosen is huge.
“As long as someone doesn’t put their finger on the scale, and it’s an objective analysis on the merits, on the cost, on the security, the connectivity, the fiber optic system, I think we win hands down,” he said.
Bost said the location will bring 3,000 jobs to the area, which will directly benefit Illinois and help secure the area long term.
“Anytime that they put missions at Scott Air Force Base, no matter what they are, that secures the long-term mission and economic development in the area,” he said.
Some people are worried about losing jobs, but Shimkus said if the location is St. Clair County, he expects most current employees to make the 20-mile drive from the current locations.
“There’s a lot of people right now who work at NGA and drive to Missouri,” he said. “If the facility uproots and moves to Illinois, then they’ll be people who live in Missouri that will then drive to Illinois.”
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