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SANTA MONICA, CA – 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.”

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