23 June 2011

Funding shuffle hides money going to Launch Complex (by Carolyn Heitman)

(Note that it's been over 9 months since a launch has occurred at the KLC and only one launch is scheduled for 2011 (27 Sept) as of 24 August 2011)
The Alaska State Legislators recently cut $4 million dollars to the Alaska Aerospace Corporation (AAC) to cover operating costs for the rest of 2011. However, the governor’s fiscal year 2012 budget still includes $4 million out of the $8 million AAC is requesting for operating and sustainment funding. Currently AAC has $29 million in its account for the remainder of 2011 and should use its own funds rather than ask for more handouts from the state. Perhaps if it did not pay its top employees such high wages it would have more operating funds. Annual salaries are over $2 million.

In order to finance AAC and the Kodiak Launch Complex through the rest of 2011 Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Mark Begich and Rep. Don Young have requested $9.5 million from Congress.

Since AAC is set up as a private corporation with corporate bylaws, it is time the state and federal government (using taxpayers’ money) stop funding it and the Kodiak Launch Complex. Without federal funding neither would be operating. Since 1993 the AAC has received a minimum of $305.7 million dollars in revenue — $144.8 million in federal grants, $134.3 million launch revenues and $26.6 million from the state of Alaska (mostly flow-through federal monies) — and to date AAC has not paid any dividends to the state, which was the original agreement. It would be interesting to know how many other private corporations are financially supported by the federal government, thereby adding to the national debt.

Last year when the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) stopped funding the Kodiak Launch Complex, it left a nice parting gift to the state by giving $80 million to the Air Force. In turn the Air Force funneled the same amount to the University of Alaska Fairbanks, a portion of which will be appropriated to AAC.

Starting in July AAC will operate under the Alaska Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, while at the same time intending to establish an Alaska Aerospace and Missile Defense Technology Center through the University of Alaska, which would make it more difficult to track Department of Defense/federal funding to AAC, Kodiak Launch Complex and Fort Greeley. It doesn’t hurt having retired military employees working for AAC, UAF (president) and ex-employees of the AAC working for the University of Alaska to rubber-stamp and push through Department of Defense funding for missile defense programs without the public’s knowledge. Talk about a stacked deck!

AAC also intends to use the National Guard Cooperative Agreement for further Kodiak Launch Complex infrastructure development (Alaska Aerospace Corporation Financial Statements, June 30, 2010) and much needed federal funding could be directed away from the needs of the National Guard. In past years federal funding for the Kodiak Launch Complex was earmarked and funneled via of the Army National Guard at Elmendorf Air Force Base — again to make funding more difficult for the public to track.

AAC is a private corporation which will operate through both the state of Alaska and the Department of Military and Veteran Affairs, doing Department of Defense activities on state public land (Narrow Cape). Where else has the Department of Defense launched missile targets and defense satellites from public-use lands? Something is wrong with this picture.

In October 2010 the Alaska Aerospace Corporation received $227,195 from the Federal Aviation Administration (the agency who licensed the KLC and is also a cooperating agency with the AAC) for the First Commercial Space Transportation Infrastructure Matching Grant for a Rocket Motor Storage Facility for the Kodiak Launch Complex (now the FAA is helping fund construction projects at the KLC). The AAC is always claiming to be broke and asking for hand-outs so where did it get the matching funds? The storage facility is not one building but will consist of 5 ‘Earth Covered Magazines’ (dirt covered structures). The first structure was completed last year and the second is scheduled to be completed this year. The Kodiak Launch Complex was never intended or developed to be a commercial launch site but a government/military facility. The AAC’s goals also include the creation of a Kodiak Economic Development Zone. Who will most benefit from that action remains to be seen.

This summer the AAC is planning preparation work for the installation of a ‘Liquid Oxygen Air Plant’ at the Kodiak Launch Complex (KLC) for larger ‘medium-lift’ launch vehicles that require liquid fuel. The vehicles would take off from Launch Pad 3 which will be located on the Cliffside above Fossil Beach. The AAC has consistently told the Kodiak public from the beginning that NO liquid- fueled vehicles would be launched from the KLC, only solid fuel vehicles. The liquid fuel plant could potentially leave the door open for launching interceptors from the KLC in the future, depending on new U.S.-Russia treaty agreements.

The previous U.S.-Russia ‘Start Treaty’ prevented the launch of interceptors from the KLC. However, the 2011 AAC ‘Proprietary and Competition Sensitive’ report mentions just that. An excerpt from the report states: “With the maturing of the missile defense industry, there will be a need to provide sustainment testing of the system to insure that the mission readiness of the interceptors does not degrade. Test launches of interceptors from the KLC can accomplish such testing without taking the missile defense system off-line. This sustaining aspect of missile defense is possible at KLC and AAC may have an opportunity to regain missile defense operations at KLC.” Are missile silos in Narrow Cape’s future?

When I contacted the Alaska Department of Natural Resources (AAC’s landlord) to find out if the Alaska Aerospace Corporation had provided an updated detailed plan of operations or a permit application for the liquid fuel plant, I was told that the DNR transferred land management rights and authority to the AAC and that the DNR is a ‘cooperating’ agency. Being a cooperating agency the DNR should be well informed of what is transpiring out at Narrow Cape, however, the department had no knowledge of the liquid fuel plant or was not willing to release the information. There has been no updated DNR/AAC Land Management Agreement or Development Plan since 2009, nor when contacted, did the Federal Aviation Administration admit to receiving a permit application from the AAC for the installation of the liquid fuel plant. Apparently the AAC is blatantly going ahead with whatever development it chooses at Narrow Cape without applying for permits or notifying the DNR or the Kodiak public of any proposed plans. No thanks to Senator Stevens the AAC was never required to do a Narrow Cape/KLC ‘site-specific’ environmental assessment.

Kodiak has a local representative (retired military) sitting on the Alaska Aerospace Board of Directors along with Rep. Austerman (a non-voting member) but residents as a whole very seldom get any updated reports or feedback in the local paper on what the AAC is proposing for Narrow Cape. When it comes to Alaska state public lands any development is suppose to be for the maximum benefit of the people and Kodiak does not need another Vandenberg or Cape Canaveral. From the AAC’s actions all these years it appears to have been originally set up as a military entity under disguise of a state agency, hiring mostly military retirees and their NASA friends and taxpayers should not be stuck with financially supporting it and the KLC and it is time to take away the Golden Fleece.

Carolyn Heitman is a 44-year Kodiak resident.

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