Concerns about job losses, national security


With rescue missions, disaster relief efforts and two major employers depending on the unique aspects of Moffett Federal Airfield, closing it down could be a big mistake. At least that's the opinion of Congresswoman Anna Eshoo and city officials from Mountain View and Sunnyvale in letters recently sent to NASA.

After news broke about NASA's wish to dump the airfield as excess property, a flurry of letters about the importance of Moffett were sent to NASA administrator Charles Bolden, including letters from Lockheed Martin and Space Systems Loral, companies that ship spacecraft from nearby facilities in cargo planes that are allowed to land at Moffett and no where else in the Bay Area, company leaders said. Both companies are "some pretty big players in Silicon Valley" notes Bill Berry, Moffett Field Restoration Advisory Board co-chair.

Eshoo's biggest concern appears to be the Air National Guard, which in 2009 signed a 50-year lease with NASA for the airfield, allowing rescue missions to fly out of Moffett. There have been 900 rescue missions so far, from shipwrecks hundreds of miles off the coast or people stuck in the wilderness on land. The unit was even deployed to Afghanistan, rescuing 345 servicemen and women, Eshoo notes.

Geographically and geologically, Moffett is an ideal location for disaster relief, claims Major Gen. David Baldwin for the 129th Rescue Wing. Moffett is centrally located in the Bay Area and its 2-mile-long runways are built on top of stable bedrock, Eshoo says. In the event of major disasters, earthquakes and wildfires, for example, Moffett is used as a staging area by state and federal emergency management agencies, and FEMA stores supplies at Moffett.

"Alternative sites would pose numerous risks to national security and increased cost to the government," writes Baldwin of Moffett. Eshoo concurs in her own letter to Bolden: "Any significant change to the airfield by NASA would result in serious national security implications."

Eshoo points out that the Rescue Wing is also a partner of NASA's, providing rescue support for manned space flights and airlift for various projects. In the future, the Rescue Wing's planes at Moffett will be fitted with sensors to measure climate change.

"I strongly believe that preserving our regional response capability and programs vital to national security is imperative, even in times of fiscal constraint," Baldwin writes.

Employers say Moffett is vital

Moffett's closure "could result in the loss of high technology manufacturing and engineering jobs in our Palo Alto-based factory," writes John Celli, president of Space Systems Loral, in a letter to Eshoo.

Celli says his company ships satellites out of Moffett up to 12 times a year, and not being able to do so would mean a 160-mile trip to McClellan Air Force base, requiring "cumbersome" and "unsafe" travel down roads at night requiring special permits.

"(It) will hurt our competitiveness, responsiveness and will increase the risk of damage to our satellites," Celli writes.

Similar concerns are expressed by John Maguire, executive vice president of Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. Lockheed has a facility in Sunnyvale on the edge of the airfield where spacecrafts are manufactured and then shipped to launch sites via massive cargo planes at Moffett.

"We have conducted a preliminary analysis considering a variety of facilities in the region, and have concluded that no single or combination of options provides a viable alternative to Moffett Field without adding material risk and cost to these critical programs," Maguire writes.


Like this comment
Posted by Spelling police
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 22, 2012 at 5:01 pm

The plural of spacecraft is spacecraft.

Like this comment
Posted by Otto Maddox
a resident of Monta Loma
on May 22, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Is there some reason they can't ship satellites out of San Jose or San Francisco?

I find it hard to believe next closest suitable airfield is McClellan. If the President of the United States can take off from SFO (which he has) then I'm sure a sattelite can as well.

I don't know if Eshoo has been paying attention but the U.S. no longer has a manned space program. One less thing this rescue squadron needs to worry about right?

When our military becomes just another welfare program (for companies) it will lose effectiveness. It already has in lots of ways. We end up with weapons the military doesn't want and we keep bases open the military would rather close.

All because of where these weapons are built or what district the base is in. Not because of the role they play in our national defense.

The military gave up Moffett long ago. Seems like no one is paying attention to that fact. Now NASA is saying they don't need it.

Time to say goodbye to Moffett once and for all.

Like this comment
Posted by cd
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 23, 2012 at 12:02 am

Loral and Lockheed build satellites in Bay Area, and their revenue are in tens of billions. They employed thousands of high-paid engineers and scientist locally. Shutting down Moffett will drive them out, and thousands of families will be impacted.

There are not much manufacturing job left in Bay Area. Let's be careful what we wish for.

Like this comment
Posted by Allison
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 23, 2012 at 5:32 pm

SFO and OAK are built on fill land. Both SUSTAINED DAMAGE in the last quake.

Once you lose an airport, you will never get it back. The bay area has NO military installations if Moffett Field is bulldozed, not to mention the historic buildings on base as well.

Moffett works for military shipping because it's private, out of the way. While so can handle the president, it shut down the airspace completely and caused massive delays. At NUQ, it affects Much less traffic.

Because what we need more of in the Bay Area is MORE HOUSING!

If you're not a fan of planes flying over...why did you move next to an import int he first place? I can assure you the base was there well before your house was...

Like this comment
Posted by mpumas
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2012 at 11:38 am

After looking at the NASA position and the many comments here and with over 50 years of experience at Moffett, here is my 2 cents worth:

1. After NASA aircraft were transferred to Edwards Air Force Base, the flying mission for NASA Ames went away. NASA has no aircraft at Moffett.

2. As such, NASA wants to get out of the airfield business and wants the GSA to look for others to be the landlord. That could be the Air National Guard or local government. There are many, including Google and NASA, who would pay the $7 million operating costs to keep the field open.

3. The east side of the field is not part of the NASA wrequest. The Air National Guard is firmly entrenched and its time for the Coast Guard to relocate their long range rescue aircraft from McCellan to Moffett. Commonality of aircraft between the two organizations at the same location makes sense to me.

4. It is time to allow the freight carriers to relocate to Moffett. It is an ideal location with quick access to the freeway and San Jose, east bay and the pennisula. Early morning landings over the bay and afternoon/evening take-offs over the bay will mitigate the noise problem.

5. I can't see the airfield closing but can see NASA not being the landlord.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

Burger chain Shake Shack to open in Palo Alto
By Elena Kadvany | 16 comments | 4,114 views

The Cost of Service
By Aldis Petriceks | 1 comment | 943 views

Couples: When Wrong Admit It; When Right; Shut Up
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 349 views