14 March 2011
The Little Launch Complex That Couldn't: Kodiak Launch Complex and Alaska Aerospace
Imagine a school district asking the state for money to build a new high school when they cannot prove any students will attend. “Build it and they will come!” the district claims. The state says no, but a powerful U.S. Senator funnels construction funds to the project through a federal government agency. The school is built and fully staffed from administrators to teachers to custodians. Unfortunately, only a few students ever show up and then, only occasionally.
So, the district, using state and federal handouts, decides to add a gym and a pool and more lockers to attract students. They still show up infrequently; sometimes the school is empty for over a year. The feds pay the cost for a few years, but finally pull out. The district appeals to the state for money to keep the school open just in case some students decide to show up. Who would support funding for such a school?
The State of Alaska would not loan money to build the Kodiak Launch Complex in the mid-1990s because AAC could not produce confirmed launch business. Senator Ted Stevens, however, directed construction money through the Department of Defense to build it. AAC expanded KLC infrastructure with state and federal handouts based on a business plan of “Build it and they will come”. The Missile Defense Agency propped it up for a few years while Senator Stevens was in office, then finally abandoned use of the facility.
Since launch revenues have never covered the cost of keeping the KLC open, Alaska Aerospace has continually asked for state and federal bailouts from its inception in 1998. Despite no launches in 2009 and only one in 2010, AAC expects Alaska to fork out a ten million dollar handout this year. Corporate welfare is counter to the fiscal responsibility we, the voters, demand from our elected representatives.
The KLC is like an old truck I owned that started falling apart. With each repair, I figured that now the truck would run fine and I was done. Yet, it continually broke down and I kept pouring money into it, thinking that each repair would be the last. I loved that old pickup and didn’t want to let it go. But I finally realized that I was throwing my money away on a truck that hardly ever ran and got rid of it.
It is time to stop throwing money away on “Space Pork Kodiak.” It has sat at Narrow Cape for thirteen years, never breaking even, costing the state more and more money while providing minimal returns and economic benefits to our community and our state. It is time to invest state funds in businesses and ventures that will produce solid returns for the state.Let’s return Narrow Cape entirely to the uses for which it is best suited: hunting, hiking, camping, fishing, birding, subsistence activities such as berry picking, and whale-watching.