Planetary Ventures, a company operating under the umbrella of Google, has been awarded by the General Services Administration (GSA) and NASA to renovate and manage the Moffett Federal Airfield in Mountain View, California.
The U.S. GSA announced, after a comprehensive review process, its decision, Monday, paving the way for the takeover of Planetary Ventures of the airfield that served as a base for the U.S. Navy. The airport was formerly operated and Managed by the Ames Research Center of NASA.
The terms of the agreement have to be finalized by the GSA, NASA, and Google. The call for proposals were initiated May 2013 by the government in an effort to attract private entities that want to collaborate with it in the rehabilitation of the field and rehabilitation of the historic Hangar One of NASA.
Planetary Ventures will not only be responsible in refreshing the 198 feet high and 1,133 feet long Hangar One but as well as the Shenandoah Plaza Historic District, rebrand Moffett Federal Airfield as another option for private and public air fleets, and take over from NASA the field's operating cost and maintenance, among other arrangements.
"Hangar One was the landmark of Silicon Valley well before the rise of today's high tech titans. Naming a lessee is a testament to GSA's commitment to providing the best value for the agency's federal partners and the American people. NASA's partnership with the private sector will allow the agency to restore this treasure for more efficient use. GSA's creative approach to putting underperforming federal facilities to new uses creates opportunities for development while eliminating NASA's management costs of the airfield and saving taxpayer dollars," said GSA administrator Dan Tanherlini.
The budget for the renovation of Hangar One, which has only retained its skeletal structure, is believed to be around $40 million.
"At NASA we're not only committed to exploring our solar system, but also making sure we're spending tax dollars wisely. That's why we've been so aggressive at making surplus or under-utilized property available to the private sector or other government partners. The agreement announced today will benefit the American taxpayer and the community around Moffett. It will allow NASA to focus its resources on core missions, while protecting the federal need to use Moffett Field as a continued, limited-use airfield. This decision today represents a tremendously effective partnership between NASA and our sister agency the GSA, and we're grateful for their leadership in this endeavor," said NASA administrator Charles Bolden.
It is not clear what Google plans to do with the airfield. There are reports that it will be building a new campus in another portion of the property. There are also speculations that it can also serve as a parking lot for the private jets of Google executives and cater to the needs of other executives in the Silicon Valley.
While the government sounds happy, there are parties protesting the partnership formed between Google, NASA, and the GSA.
In December, the inspector general of NASA, Paul Martin, had released a report questioning that Google co-founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page and the company's executive chairman Eric Schmidt were on the receiving end of a generous fuel discounts of as much as $5.3 million. The top executives, through a company known as H211, used the fuel for their seven jets and a pair of helicopters. The said company has been leasing the Moffett hangar since 2007 and pays $1.4 million every year. This lease, that has been extended twice, will expire in July 2014.
"We acknowledge that NASA received substantial benefit from its agreements with H211, including more than 200 scientific flights and a substantial amount of rental income for the once-vacant hangar. However, 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," the report read.
The Consumer Watchdog has been vocal in protesting the new deal of the government with Google.
"This is like giving the keys to your car to the guy who has been siphoning gas from your tank. 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 it's beginning to look like that is true," said Consumer Watchdog privacy project director John Simpson.