St. Louis is NGA’s gateway to the world and the future

This is an op-ed piece co-authored by St. Louis Congressman William Lacy Clay and St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay. It appeared in the St. Louis Post Dispatch on 3-24-16. AIM supports efforts to keep this large employer in St. Louis.

The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency will soon choose where to locate its new western headquarters, a $1.6 billion decision of enormous importance to our national security and the future of the St. Louis region.

For the past 72 years, the city of St. Louis has helped NGA meet its mission, and the evidence clearly demonstrates that the city is the best location to help NGA advance its mission for generations to come.

NGA’s motto is: “Know the Earth … Show the Way … Understand the World.” As we have embarked on this journey to sustain our great partnership, in many pragmatic ways, St. Louis has adopted NGA’s motto as its own.

Much has been said about the benefits that continuing this partnership will have for the city, and there are many. But the true test for the NGA is which location is best to support its needs and vital mission. And in every category, the city of St. Louis is clearly the right choice.

Know the Earth. The north St. Louis site is situated in the heart of a great metropolitan community that stands at an international crossroads of arts, culture, history, higher education, transportation, agriculture, medical and food science, communications, manufacturing and the great social struggles for fairness, equality and justice.

To know the earth is to know we no longer live in the Cold War era. Secluded bunkers are less central to our intelligence and national security needs. The city’s site will allow the NGA to maximize a great human national security asset — the diversity of its current and future workforce.

Show the Way. The history of St. Louis and its people represents a significant chapter in our nation’s tradition of innovation, gallantry and courage in national defense and security. It evokes names such as Grant, Sherman, Lindbergh, Pruitt, Symington, McDonnell-Douglas, General Dynamics, Emerson Electric, Boeing — and, yes, the Aeronautical Chart Plant, the U.S. Air Force Aeronautical Chart and Information Center, the Defense Mapping Agency, and NGA.

Generations of NGA workers have been and are of this community, with deep roots in our historic neighborhoods. They have embraced this community, and have been embraced in return. Their children are our children. Their schools, civic groups, clubs, sports teams, and places of religious worship are our schools, civic groups, clubs, sports teams, and places of worship.

The heart of NGA’s vital work is not found in bricks and mortar, on campuses and via fiber optics, or satellite technology and super computers. These are just tools.

The work of NGA depends on talented people enriched by a diverse community that truly embraces the emerging, vibrant face of America in the 21st century. No other site in the competition can reflect that tolerant, energetic and exceptional image to the world as well as the city of St. Louis.

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