Arizona senator on a pork hunt targets Kodiak

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., on the U.S. Senate floor Tuesday. (Photo from the Office of Jeff Flake)

Alaska’s congressional delegation cheered last year when the Missile Defense Agency awarded an $80 million contract for work at the Kodiak Island missile launch facility. But in the U.S. Senate this week, the contract was at the top of one Republican senator’s pork list.

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Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., has taken the mantle as the Senate’s pork-buster-in-chief by publishing an annual “wastebook.” The last one had a “Star Wars” theme: “The Farce Awakens.” This time, Flake titled his book “Porkemon Go.”

“But instead of Pikachu, we’re looking out for Pork-achu,” he explained.

(The wastebook does not lack for puns.) Flake said his top entry this year, No. 1 of 50, is the Kodiak spaceport.

“After sitting unused for several years, the Pentagon is now sinking another $80 million into the spaceport,” Flake said. “This is despite the fact that it’s not even equipped with the type of missiles that DOD plans to launch for the site.”

Last summer, the Missile Defense Agency awarded a sole-source contract to the Alaska Aerospace Corp. for an indefinite number of launches and for range support services. It could pay as much as $80 million over six years. But MDA won’t use the existing launch facility and will instead bring its own launch equipment.

Sen. Flake reviewed the history of the spaceport, which benefited from earmarks the late Sen. Ted Stevens was able to wring from Congress, over objections from some in the Pentagon. As Flake recounted, an Army employee who pushed for the project later admitted to receiving kickbacks from defense contractors.

“A mid-level DOD employee who was sentenced to prison for masterminding the plot eventually confessed that building the launch facility — quote — ‘doesn’t make sense,'” Flake said.

And then Flake moved on to slamming the National Comedy Center in New York, which received $1.7 million, in part to create holograms of dead comedians.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Armed Services Committee, didn’t think much of Flake’s critique.

“That’s what happens when senators who don’t know anything about missile defense take to the floor,” said Sullivan, R-Alaska.

Sullivan put a plug for the Kodiak facility in the Defense bill last year. He called Alaska “the cornerstone of missile defense,” because of its position on the globe and its many military assets.