SPRINGFIELD – Governor Rod Blagojevich announced today that the state has hired Fleishman-Hillard International Communications and its government consulting entity, Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations, to assist in efforts to protect Scott Air Force Base, which is the largest employer in Southern Illinois, from potential closure by the federal government. Through Opportunity Returns, his comprehensive plan to promote economic growth and create more jobs for the Southwest region, the Governor is leading a coordinated effort with the Illinois Congressional Delegation, other elected officials and local leaders to prevent Scott Air Force Base from ending up on the Defense Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) list. Scott Air Force Base contributes more than $1.5 billion to the state’s economy every year and supports nearly 50,000 jobs.
“Scott Air Force Base is a vital part of both our national defense structure and the Illinois economy,” said Governor Blagojevich. “Losing Scott would be a devastating blow to the thousands and thousands of men and women who work at the base and provide important support services, and we owe it to them to do everything humanly possible to keep the base open. Military personnel and cargo that moves anywhere in the world by land, air or sea rely on the command and control systems and expertise of the people assigned to Scott. I am confident that with this additional help, we will make a very persuasive case to Congress that Scott Air Force Base plays an irreplaceable role in defending our country and strengthening our economy.”
“It is essential that we keep Scott Air Force Base, Rock Island Arsenal and the Air National Guard Bases in Peoria and Springfield off the BRAC list. We’ve seen so many Illinois military installations close in recent years. Our message now is simple: the facilities we have left are essential for national security and Illinois’ economy. I am doing everything I can, along with Governor Blagojevich and the entire Illinois Congressional delegation, to keep this base and every other Illinois base open,” U.S. Senator Richard Durbin (D-IL) said.
“The Scott Air Force Base, Rock Island Arsenal and the Air National Guard Bases in Peoria and Springfield are vital to our state. We will do everything possible, both here in Illinois and in Washington, D.C., to keep these bases open,” U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Yorkville) said.
“Scott Air Force Base is an integral part of our way of life here in Southern Illinois. It is our largest employer, and also a huge part of our culture. I look forward to continue working with Governor Blagojevich, as well as with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle, to make a clear and compelling case that Scott must continue protecting our country, as it has for so many years,” Congressman Jerry Costello (D-Belleville) said.
“The time to act is right now which is why all of Illinois is united in our efforts to save Scott Air Force Base and all of our vital military institutions. This is a battle for both our national security and 70,000 Illinois jobs. We can’t afford to lose either fight,” Congressman John Shimkus (R-Collinsville) said.
“It is difficult to find a resident of Southern Illinois who isn’t impacted in some way by Scott Air Force Base. It is our number one employer, and brings more than $1.5 billion into our region every year. Plus, it plays a vitally important role in keeping our national defense strong,” said State Rep. Jay Hoffman (D-Collinsville).
Under BRAC, an independent commission evaluates the Pentagon’s closure recommendations and then develops a final list of bases to be closed. Congress then has the option to approve or reject the list as submitted without changes. In the past round of closings, 85% of bases that were placed on the list were eventually shut down. The next round of closings is scheduled to be announced in 2005.
Scott Air Force Base is a major joint command headquarters base located in St. Clair County. It is home to the United States Transportation Command (USTRANSCOM) and the Air Mobility Command (AMC). Scott is also home to the 18th Air Force Headquarters, 375th Airlift Wing, the 932nd Reserve Airlift Wing and the 126th Air National Guard Refueling Wing. The United States Transportation Command is the largest transportation enterprise in the world. USTRANSCOM was established in 1987 and is one of nine U.S. unified commands. As the single manager of America’s global defense transportation system, USTRANSCOM is tasked with the coordination of people and transportation assets to allow our country to project and sustain forces, whenever, wherever, and for as long as they are needed, in both times of peace and war. Air Mobility Command (AMC), the air component of USTRANSCOM, is also headquartered at Scott Air Force Base. The Air Mobility Command (AMC) has the primary mission for providing all of the armed services airlift, aerial refueling, special air missions and aeromedical evacuation. AMC also contracts and controls the command contracts for commercial airlifts for the Department of Defense.
The units of Scott Air Force Base are well trained and have the latest in technology control centers. Scott is centrally located with excellent facilities that have growth capability. The construction of MidAmerica St. Louis Airport as a joint-use facility adjacent to the base added a new 10,000-foot runway, a parallel taxiway, and renovated and extended Scott Air Force Base’s runway to 8,000 feet. In addition, a new state-of-the-art, FAA traffic control tower was added as the last link in the ability to handle more with maximum safety. The units operating at Scott, coupled with the facility improvements, will accommodate contingencies, mobilization and future force requirements. From deploying troops for national defense to transporting the President of the United States, it’s all controlled and directed at Scott Air Force Base.
Fleishman-Hillard International Communications is known for developing successful campaigns to ensure that legislators, government officials, thought leaders, and the public hear a persuasive story on a particular issue or position. Fleishman-Hillard's St. Louis office is particularly well-suited to help Illinois with Scott Air Force Base because it is intimately familiar with the region and has strong relationships throughout the Bi-State region with many of the political, community, and business leaders that must be engaged to successfully position Scott Air Force Base. In addition, Fleishman-Hillard Government Relations has an impressive team of government relations experts in Washington, DC, who will provide counsel and access to some of the key decision makers involved in the BRAC process. Fleishman-Hillard will earn $180,000 for its 12-month contract with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
“There is no more important center of economic activity in Southern Illinois than Scott Air Force Base. This will help us spread the message that the vitality of Southern Illinois is very much at stake here. We will work day and night to keep Scott Air Force Base open,” said Jack Lavin, Director of the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.