26 February 2014

Alaska Legislature Funding Kodiak Launch Complex is a Waste of Money

Dear Legislator:
      This message is written on behalf of the Kodiak Rocket Launch Information Group to explain why it is time to stop pouring money into the black hole that is the Kodiak Launch Complex.  KRLIG was formed in 1995 as an ad hoc group of Kodiak residents who were frustrated with Alaska Aerospace's lack of information and refusal to answer questions about the, at that time, proposed KLC.   As we corresponded with scientists, business people, and others around the country connected to the aerospace industry, our extensive research made it apparent that a rocket launching facility in Kodiak would NEVER pay for itself - a fact that has proven to be true.  It was at this point (1996 or 97) that more and more Kodiak residents opposed what came to be known locally as  "Space Pork Kodiak". A few years ago, an AAC official admitted to the Kodiak Island Borough Assembly that launch revenues had never covered the costs of keeping the facility open. 
     Some legislators have used the term "federally funded asset" in relation to the KLC; this phrase is somewhat misleading.  A more accurate term would be, "Ted Stevens funded asset".  When AAC went to AIDEA for a construction loan in the '90s, they were told not to come back until they could prove they would have the business to pay it back.  This never happened because they could not show they would have sufficient launches to pay back a loan and, more importantly, Senator Ted Stevens (at that time on the Senate Appropriations Committee) pushed through unwanted funding to USAF/DoD for initial construction - 40 million dollars, as I recall.  
      Here is a link to a story that explains what happened:  http://kodiaklaunchcomplex.blogspot.com/2008/12/klc-wasnt-wanted-by-military.html      This story appeared in  the Kodiak Daily Mirror in 2008. 
      Here is an article from the NY Times from about the same time documenting the USAF opposition to funding the KLC:  http://kodiaklaunchcomplex.blogspot.com/2008/10/incontrovertible-proof-that-klc-is.html
     Since 1998, AAC has been entirely dependent on state and federal funds just to keep the KLC open.  I am sure that you will hear from them this year that "several companies are interested in launches and contracts are imminent".  They have repeated that mantra for at least fifteen years with few results.  They will tout their "partnerships" as proof they are major players in the launch industry.  Well, without actual launch contracts they are not what they pretend to be.
       As long as Ted Stevens was in the Senate, the federal funds flowed; once he was out, it wasn't long until the Missile Defense Agency canceled the contract that essentially paid the costs of the KLC just to keep it open in case they wanted to launch a target missile.
    You may also hear claims along the "build it and they will come" line......another ploy AAC has used for years to continue to build more infrastructure requiring more money for maintenance, yet not really acquiring launch contracts. Keep in mind that every launch from the KLC has been paid for by federal government agencies - most have been military-funded launches.  Not one private entity has ever paid to launch a rocket in Kodiak.
    The last launch was September 26, 2011, and as of February 9, 2014,  there are no launches listed for 2014 on their website.  We don't know many businesses that can or should survive when, in almost three years,  they don't perform the service for which they were created.  Funding of the KLC is simply corporate welfare.
    The KLC was built on false premises, a non-existent (or fantasy) business plan, and now just sucks state funding for high salaries for its corporate officers (who do not reside in Kodiak) and maintenance for an ocean side facility that is quickly rusting away.  AAC will claim that they are bringing income and jobs to Kodiak.  This simply not true except when there is construction going on which provides short-term benefits although often the workers are from off-island or even out of state.
     Finally, it is my understanding that AAC has been paying a monthly stipend of $15,000 to the owner of the Narrow Cape Lodge which is used for lodging launch-related personnel;  it has been empty for the nearly three years since the last launch at the KLC.  We have learned that a legislator is trying to get state funds for AAC to purchase the "Space Hotel", which would mean even higher costs for them to maintain the KLC.  This purchase would be a waste of our dwindling state funds.
    Alaska Legislators, thank you for your attention to this issue.  It really is time to stop wasting money on this state boondoggle and close it down.   We have better and more productive uses for state money than the "Launch Pad to Nowhere". 
 We urge you to take action to stop this unrecoverable loss from our dwindling state coffers.  We look forward to your reply and thank you for your service to our state.

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