Derailing restoration plans for Hangar One and causing anxiety over Moffett Field's future, the head of NASA wants to assign the General Services Administration to determine the fate of Moffett Field.
NASA administrator Charles Bolden says Hangar One and the runways at Moffett Field are "excess to the agency" and therefore should undergo a review by the General Services Administration, according to an April 6 letter to Congresswoman Anna Eshoo. The GSA may decide to give the property to another government agency, such as the Federal Aviation Administration or nearby cities.
The GSA's involvement is not yet a done deal, however, and Eshoo is trying to get the White House to stop the move.
Eshoo says that the local community has confirmed its support for existing plans for the airfield and Hangar One several times in recent years and is therefore "disheartened by the news and skeptical about the practicality of such a review," she said in a letter on Wednesday to the Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board.
The RAB will meet and discuss the situation this evening at 7 p.m. at the Mountain View Senior center, 266 Escuela Avenue.
"The local community has been working with NASA Ames, Navy, regulators, and other stakeholders for more than 15 years, a sometimes contentious but ultimately constructive process that has resulted in a clear understanding among all of the parties," writes RAB member Steve Williams on his blog. "But NASA headquarters wants to start that process over with yet another bureaucratic federal administration, the General Services Administration."
Bolden's announcement came as a response to Eshoo's continued push to have NASA headquarters sign off on H211's proposal to save Hangar One, which the community has struggled to do over the last decade. But because there is no "mission" for Hangar One, Bolden says it cannot be leased in the long term to the founders of Google, who through their private plane operator H211 LLC have offered to restore the iconic structure, priced by NASA at over $45 million.
So far Bolden has only singled out Hangar One and the Moffett runways as areas that could be surplussed, so there is still some question as to what area will be under review, said Bill Berry, RAB co-chair and former NASA Ames administrator.
"There are still a lot of jobs that go along with the airfield," including cargo flights for Lockheed and Space Systems Loral and used by the National Guard and the Air Force, said City Council member Jac Siegel. "NASA headquarters and NASA Ames are not on the same page. We are not real happy about that at all."
"Because NASA has determined that these properties no longer have a mission need and are therefore excess to the Agency, NASA's enhanced use lease authorities are not available for these properties," Bolden wrote on April 6 responding to Eshoo's request for such a lease for H211. "Given this determination, we believe a process under GSA's expertise and array of authorities will best address the interests of the community, NASA, and the federal government at large for these properties."
In his last letter to Eshoo, which is also signed by GSA acting administrator Daniel Tangherlini, Bolden does not use the word "excess" to describe Moffett, possibly indicating that he will be leaving that to the GSA to determine during the review. A final determination could take years, Berry said.
If NASA does give up Moffett, Siegel said the city of Mountain View could be given half the airfield, including Hangar One. The Federal Aviation Administration could have first dibs, however, though Siegel says another airport at Moffett would be a hard sell when San Jose airport is at only 65 percent capacity.
"We are definitely in line to possibly get half of that airfield," Siegel said. "That property out there would actually become Mountain View. That is something we need to prepare for."