Consumer Watchdog Attacks Google Lease of Moffett Field

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SANTA MONICA, Calif. (Consumer Watchdog PR) –
NASA’s just announced lease agreement with a Google subsidiary to manage Moffett Federal Airfield wrongly rewards the Internet giant’s executives for longstanding abuses at Ames Research Center, Consumer Watchdog said.

NASA claimed the lease would save the agency approximately $6.3 million annually in maintenance and operation costs and provide $1.16 billion in rent over the initial 60-year lease term.

“In fact the lease gives Google unprecedented control of a federal facility to use as its own playground,” said John M. Simpson, director of Consumer Watchdog’s Privacy Project.

Last December a NASA audit found that the jet fleet owned through a company called H211 by Google Chairman Eric Schmidt and Co-Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin received an unwarranted discount worth up to $5.3 million on jet fuel purchased from the government while basing their fleet of corporate jets at Moffett.

“This is like giving the keys to your car to the guy who has been siphoning gas from your tank,” said Simpson. “It is unfairly rewarding unethical and wrongful behavior.  These Google guys seem to think they can do whatever they want and get away with it – and, sadly, it looks like that is true.”

Google has said it plans to test its driverless cars at Moffett, which would enable it to escape California regulations requiring that such vehicles must have a driver capable of taking over control.

In December NASA Inspector General Paul Martin wrote:

“Specifically, we calculated that since inception of its lease H211 paid approximately $3.3 million to $5.3 million less in fuel costs that it would have paid to buy fuel at market rates compared to the amount it paid DLA-Energy. We also found that H211 received a significant discount on fuel for its many non-NASA-related flights to which it was not entitled. While this arrangement did not cause an economic loss to NASA or DLA-Energy, it did result in considerable savings for H211 and engendered a sense of unfairness and a perception of favoritism toward H211 and its owners. Accordingly, we recommend that NASA explore with the company possible options to remedy this situation.”

  • TimR

    H211, as part of this lease of Moffett Field is renovating Hangar One. Google has a couple of 737-class jets, couple of business jets and Dornier Alpha One military trainer jet.

    This story about discounted fuel has been around a couple of years. Considering what Google (H211) are getting in a long term lease, Google needs to come clean and just pay the difference and settle the concerns this watch dog group is leveling on them. The Moffett field property is quite valuable if you look at how consumed the real estate is in Silicon Valley. There is a need to assure that other businesses have access to Moffett, that Google (H211) does not abuse the opportunity provided in this lease.

    Google is a corporation with normal management problems, waste and plenty of lawyers. Without watch dog groups, any good conscious that remains in this Corp will not surface and do the right thing; plain and simple.

    Google was just involved in big star-studded award ceremony at Moffett’s Hangar One. They awarded those that push technology forward. This is a great thing but not enough if they abuse business arrangements involving government facilities. NASA management has been tickled pink to mingle with Google big-wigs and their big-$$$.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-29987154
    “The Silicon Valley ceremony was held in a retired Nasa airship station
    Hangar One, in a star studded affair hosted by creator of Family Guy
    Seth MacFarlane. Several celebrity presenters awarded the prizes such as
    Benedict Cumberbatch who played mathematician Alan Turing in The
    Imitation Game.”

  • gillza

    I agree completely! We should just dump that fuel down the drain instead of selling it off for cheap, let the hangar rot and crumble instead of letting Google maintain it and overall do our damn best to not let big Google $$$ eve get their hands on any government facilities. Yes, like that!

  • Wayne Anderson

    Are these idiots really saying that because of $5M in discounted fuel, NASA should turn down more than a Billion (with a *B*) dollar lease that also provides a benefit of more than that amount every single year in maintenance cost transferrence?

  • BubbaJoe123

    “Google has said it plans to test its driverless cars at Moffett, which would enable it to escape California regulations requiring that such vehicles must have a driver capable of taking over control.”
    Whaaa? Those regulations are there because of the concern that, in the absence of a human driver, the car could harm other cars or pedestrians. If they’re not taking the car out in public, the entire rationale for the rules goes away. If this is evasion, then my decision to put a pool in my backyard is an “evasion” of laws prohibiting me from digging huge holes in the middle of the street and filling them with water.

  • That’s one billion total for 60 years. Works out to 20 something million a year. I’m not a real estate expert but 1,000 acres in Silicon Valley would seem to fetch more than that if NASA did an open bid for that land.

    Like the cheap fuel they sold to Google, it’s not illegal but it sure does smack of influence and favoritism (can you or I buy cheap fuel from NASA?).

  • Except that an “open bid for that land” is something completely different from leasing an airfield that must remain an airfield during the lease term.

  • Sweet, does that mean next year I can fly my Cessna into Google-operated Moffett Field?

  • Spartakus

    Did everyone forget this location is on the National Register of Historic Places, and they cannot auction off the land? Seems the 20 million a year works out well for something that would need to be maintained and kept more or less as-is forever….

  • Dawgs4ever

    Sure, you could have signed up for the lease if you wanted to pay more than $1 billion over 60 years and pay all the airfield maintenance fees along with 200+ Million to refurbish the hangar.

  • Dawgs4ever
  • Chris Ashcroft

    “received an unwarranted discount worth up to $5.3 million on jet fuel
    purchased from the government while basing their fleet of corporate jets
    at Moffett.”

    I think I am the only one who questions if this ‘discounted’ jet fuel purchases would continue with this deal.

    In 50-60 years from now, jet fuel discounts could end up saving a billion per year with that large of a discount! Just inflation alone and then also supply and demand of jet fuel could increase the cost of jet fuel quiet a lot! Then there is also the increase in expensive property, I wouldn’t be surprised if the 10 last years of the deal would cost a billion+ to rent that location.

  • Robert Gishubl

    It would be interesting to find out if they could have purchased fuel at Market Rates at the NASA controlled field. Like all government run facilities there are rules about what you can and can not do and it would not surprise me if the only fuel source was the government supply for which it had one rate to “sell” the fuel based on the original field use that it would all be government jets or jets on government business. So when private jets were based there the fuel supply situation was not updated and the there was only one supply charge. Once it is under lease the fuel supply will no longer be government based and they will have to arrange commercial supply.
    This is probably more about unintended consequences of allowing private jets to be based at a NASA facility without a major review of all operating aspects. This will be overcome with a formal lease of the full facility.
    Perhaps on transfer of the fuelling arrangements Google could be charged extra but on the other hand Google is legally obliged to maximise its return to shareholders so making an additional payment it may not be legally obligated to do may be challenged. Also if it is not a legal requirement the additional payment could also be considered a bribe.

  • John

    I have to agree with Wayne. I mean ok, discounted fuel is probably not fair, but the article gives approximately 0 details about why they got this discount. And it says DLA and NASA had no economic loss over it.

    The real question is, what was nasa getting out of this 1,000 acres before the lease? Where they getting $20 million worth of use out of it? My guess would be no. And they’re still running their own research center on the base, so I’m not sure I see what the big deal is here.

    Maybe if NASAs budget wasn’t constantly being trimmed so we can hand more money to pork barrel DoD projects (*coughf35coughlandwarriorcough*) they wouldn’t feel the need to give sweet deals to private companies.

  • Jeff Huerta

    This is why I despise stupid liberals. “In fact the lease gives Google unprecedented control of a federal facility to use as its own playground,”
    Are you serious? Google is spending over a billion dollars for this facility. You actually think Google’s spending billion dollars to buy a playground???? Jesus…..

    Look up a company called Triumph-Vought division based in Dallas. They’ve been leasing a US military base in Texas for a $1 since WW2!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! What do you say to that???

  • fribble

    How about selling the land for $5 billion alone and the buildings if anyone wants them?

  • fribble

    Must remain an airfield for what?
    So Google can fly in and out of it as their private airfield?
    They didn’t want to give that up and so the moron President can fly in there?

  • fribble

    The land is worth $5 billion.
    If they don’t need it they should sell it.
    $1.16 billion over 60 years is less than $20 million per year and by the time 60 years are up that $20 million will be lucky to be worth $5 million in today’s money.