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Saturday, September 14, 2013
Pentagon ends sweetheart fuel deal for Google executive aircraft
Department of Defense (DOD) has ended a sweetheart fuel deal that
allowed a company owned by top Google executives to buy discounted
jet fuel for a fleet of aircraft based at Moffett Federal Airfield (MFA) in
California. The public interest group Consumer Watchdog said Friday
the aircraft should be evicted from the facility and an investigation
opened to see if laws were broken.
a company owned by Google CEO Larry Page, Google Executive Chairman
Eric Schmidt and Google Co-Founder Sergey Brin, apparently bought
fuel to which it wasn't entitled under the agreement with the Defense
Department, Consumer Watchdog said in press statement Friday. “The
fuel was purchased below commercial market prices. Consumer Watchdog
first raised concerns about the Google executives' sweetheart deal in
a 2011 report. New details of about the
arrangement emerged in a Wall Street Journal (WSJ) report Thursday.
Google executives' aircraft, a Boeing 767, a Boeing 757 and four
Gulfstream V's, were allowed to be based at NASA's Ames Research
Center, Moffett Federal Airfield, ostensibly because they were to be
used to do research flights for NASA, but the WSJ documented that few
of the flights originating from Moffett were NASA related. Some were
flights to Tahiti, Hawaii and Croatia.
truly outrageous is their company appears to have bought $6 million
worth of fuel subsidized by taxpayers that they weren't entitled to
at all,” said John Simpson, Consumer Watchdog's Privacy Project
Direct. “Why should they get to fill up their fuel tanks to fly on
personal junkets around the world, when we're all struggling to fill
our gas tanks?"
was only entitled to buy fuel from the Department of Defense when the
planes were used for NASA missions. However, as The Wall Street
Journal reported Thursday, only 155 scientific missions had been
flown for NASA as of last year, while more than 710 flights had
departed Moffett since 2007.
contract between H211 and the Pentagon specifies that the fuel was
supposed to be used only "for performance of a U.S. government
contract, charter or other approved use." The
Wall Street Journal reported that 2.3 million gallons of fuel were
purchased from the DOD since 2009 for the Google jets at an average
cost of $3.19, while the average price at commercial airports for the
same period was $4.35, a savings totaling $2.67 million. NASA's
relation with the Google executives is under investigation by NASA's
Inspector General (IG).
Charles Grassley (R-Idaho) has also raised questions about the
arrangement. The sweetheart deal that allowed the fuel purchases was
terminated Aug. 31, probably because of the IG's investigation,
Consumer Watchdog said. However, the aircraft are still based at
Moffett, about three miles away from Google's
proposed long-term lease of Hangar One and MFA offers a unique
opportunity for the private sector to collaborate with the government
to reposition and manage federally owned property for private and
public sector reuse, the GSA said.
the face of declining budgets and significant mission changes, NASA
has been challenged to repurpose historic Hangar One and manage the
airfield to support other non-NASA users,” said GSA Acting
Administrator Dan Tangherlini. “This
competitive approach is designed to create opportunities for
development while eliminating NASA's management costs of the