Kodiak: Launchpad for Strategic Missile Defense

Dr. Rosalie Bertell, GNSH

Kodiak is an exceptionally beautiful Alaskan island and many of us have had the privilege of visiting or living there. It has snow capped mountains, lush green forests, North America's largest mammal, the Kodiak bear, dairy farms, salmon spawning grounds, and an abundance of marine life. Just off its shore are majestic mountains which rise out of the sea and carry clouds like necklaces about halfway up between the water and their summit. It is home to about 15,000 people, the king crab, grey whales, seals, herring, halibut and five species of salmon (red, pink, silver, king and dog). On 17 September 2001, at 5:00 PM local time there may be a rocket launched from Kodiak, part of the STARS Program which extends the arms race into space. It may be postponed due to the terrorist trauma now facing the United States, which certainly has deeply challenged the country's concept of security. If the launch goes ahead, many local Kodiak people will participate in a demonstration against the launch. They are planning to drive together to the site, parking their cars on both sides of the narrow road to the launch site, so that the national press, which will be bussed in, will have to walk through the demonstrators to get to the site. They will be prepared with statements supporting their action which is designed to cause the cessation of these tests. Please join them in spirit as they try to express the will of many peace-loving Americans. In order to understand the significance of this launch, you need to know some of the background. Missile defense itself is now in question because of the ease with which ordinary air space was breached. Building up security through just and fair actions both in the global economic and military spheres, and forming cooperative relationships rather than those of dominance seems to be a better scenario for building peace and security than is escalation of the arms race.

In 1991, the Alaska Aerospace Development Corporation (AADC) was established by the Alaskan State Legislature and (retired Air Force Lt. Colonel) Pat Ladner was appointed Executive Director. At the time of his appointment, Ladner was program director for test launch operations with the Strategic Defense Initiative, popularly called Star Wars. At the time, most space related activities were located in the vicinity of Fairbanks, Alaska. AADC later approved a purely commercial "space port" for Narrow Cape, on Kodiak Island, located about 25 miles south of the city of Kodiak. The project purported to launch Kodiak into the space age of commercial rockets. Residents were told the project would bring three million a year to the Island economy and produce 50 to 140 new jobs.

Although the State paid less than 25% of the cost of this spaceport, the rest being paid by the Pentagon and military, it was insisted until recently that the project was completely "civilian". Alaskans, in 1986, had passed the Alaskan Nuclear Freeze Act, requiring "a mutual and verifiable freeze in the development, testing, production and deployment of nuclear weapons". Proponants of the new project claimed that the Act would be honored.

The inaugural launch from the spaceport in November 1997 was sponsered by the U.S. Air Force. Totally about three rockets have already been launched. The Air Force was the sole customer until Alaska agreed to host another 20 launches for the U.S. Army Strategic Target System missile tests (STARS Program). People have been dismayed to learn that although AADC had promised that no radioactive material or liquid fueld rockets would be used., STARS has both. It also violates the Nuclear Freeze. Act. In April of 2001, it was finally admitted that only one or two maintenance jobs for Kodiak residents would be produced at the site.

The rocket trajectory is over two Native Villages, Old Harbor and Akhiok, and rockets can be expected to affect these Villages and the migratory grey whales, seals and other marine life. The first stage of each launch of these three stage rockets dumps four tons of aluminum oxide, a substancetoxic to humans and animals. The army rockets release halon and freon, both forbidden by the Montreal Protocol which attempted to save the ozone layer, and each rocket releases 11.5 tons of hydrochloric acid which also destroys ozone. There are no emergency plans for the people in case of a rocket explosion or failure.

To date, no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) has been required for the spaceport. Lockheed, the Army and the Air Force have produced Environmental Assessments (EA) for single launches. The STARS Project has produced a document which was only for agency review, and members of the public had difficulty obtaining copies. An EA is not a serious study of local impacts on the population, flora and fawna.

The Alaska University System, Fairbanks, has recently listed Narrow Cape, Kodiak, as one of the areas it would like to acquire. The President of the University at Fairbanks is a retired Army General who is also the Chairman of the Board of AADC. If the University in turn sells the property to the federal government, the site would become a military installation, subject to military security. The Pentagon is seeking exemption from the Fisheries and Conservation Management Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the National Marine Sanctuaries Act and the Coastal Zone Management Act. They also oppose any requirement for an EIS. Currently Narrow Cape is a popular fishing and recreation sight. Alaskan Governor Wally Hickel recently vetoed this transfer of Narrow Cape, and his decision was upheld by the Court. However, it is obvious that there will be continued pressure to militarize Kodiak.

Alaska is already the site of massive federal projects in support of Star Wars. You will find much of the detail in Rosalie Bertell's new book: "Planet Earth: the Latest Weapon of War". It is also in Alaska that the U.S. plans to break the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty with Russia, made in 1972, which has been the king pin of nuclear strategy of containment.

Please write to your senators and representatives asking that they respect the non-nuclear 1986 Alaskan referendum and not make Kodiak, and Alaska in general, the prime target should "rogue nations" ever decide to attack the US. It is time that we learned new ways of assuring national security rather than the build up ever more horrible methods of waging war and making peaceful people targets for aggression!