Traditional Values, Progressive Thinking – The NGA Decision

BY O'FALLON MAYOR
GARY L. GRAHAM  
Mayor Gary Graham

Mayor Gary Graham

On March 31, 2016, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) Director, Robert Cardillo recommended the St. Louis City Site over the Scott Air Force Base Site for the new $1.75 billion NGA West Facility.

While I am disappointed that the St. Louis City Site was chosen over the Scott Air Force Base Site as the Agency Preferred Alternative for the Next NGA West Facility, I am thankful for the opportunity to comment on the decision. It is my plea that the exceptional amount of public comments favoring the Scott Air Force Base Site will encourage the NGA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to reconsider their decisions.

I encourage everyone to provide comments on the Agency Preferred Alternative prior to the end of the review period, May 2, 2016. Comments may be submitted by one of three methods:

Enter your comments directly into the form on the Next NGA West website (http://nextngawest.com/site/index.php/comment).

Send a letter with your comments to the following address:

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Kansas City District
Attn: Amy Snively
Room 529
601 E. 12th Street
Kansas City, MO 64106

   Send an e-mail with your comments to nextNGAwest@usace.army.mil

According to the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the decision of the preferred alternative came down to the St. Louis City Site “based on its ability to deliver a location that met the schedule, reduced costs, delivered a location that best served the mission and vision for the NGA’s future, and minimized impacts to the environment.” This statement, and the justifications behind it, are false.

The FEIS states that the chosen site must be available for acquisition and construction in early 2017. It is completely unrealistic to believe that the St. Louis Site could possibly be available for construction in early 2017. The FEIS even acknowledges that the “government currently does not know the time or cost necessary to remediate the St. Louis City Site.” While the FEIS recognizes that the Scott Air Force Base Site is preferred to the St. Louis Site from a schedule perspective, it does not adequately assess the schedule risks and unknown issues associated with the St. Louis Site. If the St. Louis Site is selected, there will be delays. Eminent domain and condemnation are lengthy processes and can have extensive delays if there are legal challenges. In addition, remediation and construction on a developed site such as in St. Louis could reveal numerous blighting and complications. The Scott Air Force Base Site is a clean “green field” site that is shovel ready.

The FEIS claims the cost to acquire and develop the Scott Air Force Base Site is almost 20 percent more than the St. Louis Site. How can this claim be made when the FEIS concedes that the government currently does not know the time or cost necessary to remediate the St. Louis City Site? And while the City of St. Louis and State of Missouri has pledged to purchase the property for the project, this is hardly at “no cost.” It is still taxpayer money that is being used to condemn the properties at a cost that is not necessary for the Scott Air Force Base Site. The land is ready for development at no additional cost to any government (city, county, state, or federal).  Furthermore, the Scott Air Force Base Site will be available much sooner than the St. Louis Site, allowing construction to begin sooner and be constructed at a lesser price. A single year of delay at the St. Louis Site could easily result in an increase of $40 million to the $945 million construction budget. This is not fair to the taxpayer, especially when building on the Scott Air Force Base would avoid these issues.

The FEIS claims the St. Louis Site is superior in NGA job recruitment and retention. Defense agencies (such as the NGA) recruit new employees from mainly two sources: college graduates and retired military. The Scott Air Force Base Site offers a distinct advantage for recruiting military personnel who are exiting the service either through retirement or other honorable discharges. Many will have advanced degrees in information assurance, cyber defense, finance, and logistics, to name a few. And they will likely already have some level of security clearance, which will save time and money in recruitment. In addition, out of all the colleges in the area, only one has the program required to graduate students with the mapping expertise needed by the NGA: Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, which is located in the Metro East near Scott Air Force Base.

The FEIS recognizes that the Scott Air Force Base Site is strongly preferred to the St. Louis Site from a security perspective. I feel this criteria should supersede all others. Doing otherwise puts NGA employees, the soldiers who count on them, and local residents at unnecessary risk.

I strongly feel that the Scott Air Force Base Site is best suited to create a long-standing partnership critical to maintaining the NGA mission in the St. Louis Metropolitan area and will provide an opportunity to support future generations and long-term vision for geospatial intelligence.