SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Illinois — Hundreds of new jobs could be coming to Scott Air Force Base because of a Department of Defense announcement Tuesday that the air base has been chosen as one of six finalists to replace the aging National Geospatial Intelligence Agency facilities in St. Louis.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said the old buildings housing the agency in downtown St. Louis are too old to meet the agency's demands.
"Today's announcement confirms the NGA's commitment to keeping this facility in the region," Durbin said in a statement. "As one of our nation's leading defense installations, Scott Air Force Base would be a natural choice to house the work of this critically important agency."
The other five finalists for the new agency are located in the St. Louis area, all in Missouri.
The current NGA facilities at 3200 S. 2nd St., in St. Louis are housed in century-old buildings that pose security and safety concerns. The agency expects to move from that location by 2021, according to a news release.
The NGA, headquartered in Ft. Belvoir, Va., is a combined defense and intelligence agency responsible for collecting, classifying and analyzing human activity around the globe and showing this activity in the form of maps, charts and imagery intelligence.
The St. Louis NGA facilities in downtown St. Louis support nearly 3,000 jobs for direct employees and civilian contractors.
U.S. Rep. Bill Enyart, D-Belleville, called Scott an "ideal location" for NGA and a "natural fit."
"We will be working closely with NGA in the future to make sure that Scott is well represented during the selection process," Enyart said in a statement.
U.S. Sen. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., also hailed Scott as the best choice for the NGA facilities, citing the air base's central location and its role as the largest employer in Southern Illinois, as well as its national security assets.
Kirk promised to make sure "Scott is considered as the strongest candidate, adding that he and other members of the Illinois delegation "aredetermined toadvance Scott's candidacy to host this crucial mission. ..."
A series of studies, including an economic analysis, determined it would be cheaper and quicker to build a new NGA facility than to modernize existing facilities.
NGA hired the firm Jones, Lang, LaSalle to perform a year-long site location study, which concluded in 2013. The firm drew up a list of new NGA facilities in the St. Louis region. Besides Scott, they include:
* Fenton, Mo., at the home of the shuttered Chrysler auto plant on Interstate-44, west of St. Louis.
* Mehlville, Mo., at the site of the Met Life building on Tesson Ferry Road between Interstate-270 and Rte. 141, south of St. Louis.
* North County, near Interstate 70 and Hanley Road, outside Lambert St. Louis International Airport.
* North St. Louis city, near the corner of Cass and Jefferson avenues.
* Weldon Spring, along Interstate 64 near Chesterfield, Mo., northwest of St. Louis.