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DC Metro asks carbuilders to consider a local factory NEWSWIRE

By | April 22, 2019

Transit agency asks manufactures to ensure local benefits from contract expected to exceed $1 billion

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WASHINGTON — Companies bidding on a contract to build the next generation of railcars for Washington’s Metro system —  a contract expected to be worth more than $1 billion — are being asked how they would spend some of the money in the region, an effort which could include building an assembly plant.

The Washington Post reports that potential bidders are being told they must provide a “detailed narrative” of how they would provide economic benefits to the area, and to agree to make a “good-faith effort” to spend 8% of the total value on small businesses and local subcontractors.

Since no U.S. firm builds railcars, the winning bidder will be a foreign-based company. Three have expressed interest in the contract — China’s CRRC, South Korea’s Hyundai Rotem, and France’s Alstom. But the CRRC bid is plagued by concerns over potential use of the rail cars for cyberespionage, which is leading a group of Washington-area Senators to propose legislation which would block federal funding for Chinese-built cars. [See “DC Metro funding bill would block purchase of Chinese equipment,” Trains News Wire, April 15, 2019.]

CRRC won contracts in Chicago, Boston, and Los Angeles in part by agreeing to build assembly plants in Illinois, Massachusetts, and California. And Kawasaki of Japan is building and testing cars in New York and Nebraska for a contract with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The deadline for bidding on the Metro contract is May 31.

21 thoughts on “DC Metro asks carbuilders to consider a local factory NEWSWIRE

  1. Mister Miller

    I push electrons for a living, or at least that is what one of my degrees says (but don’t believe everything you read). Tell me again how this is supposed to work? And tell me again how it would not be detected? Enquiring minds want to know.

    This puts me in mind of one of the kerfluffles I was involved in back when, when Y2K reared its ugly head. We had custom software (and the source code) running on dedicated embedded platforms. It was firmware, could not be changed by any outside influence not having physical access to the equipment. Yet, there was on the part of administration a major panic that the whole thing would blow sky high on January 1, 2000, and nothing the technical staff could do or say would dissuade the administrators. For this reason a number of the facilities I was involved with at the time were shut down over that New Year in spite of the impact this shutdown had on the welfare of the country.

    The moral of this story is that technical expertise and understanding of the situation by those competent to do so has no weight at all in the decision making process when a good panic gets started and propagates itself in upper management. I have seen it more than once.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  2. Anna,

    Thanks for bringing up the Y2K fiasco. Nineteen years later my stomach belches about it, and if it took 19 years for someone to say so, then it’s about time, isn’t it?

    All the politicians (but absolutely nobody else) were concerned that traffic signals would fail to function on Y2K, even though none of the politicians seemed to know exactly what the failure would consist of. Every technician and software engineer who had anything to do with designing, building or using traffic signal controllers said there would be no problem. To prove it, they plugged the date/ time 12/13/1999 11:59:59 into each model of controller. One second later, exactly nothing happened except the time and date being one second later. As predicted. (Maybe “as predicted is too soft a term. How about “as known would be the case”.)

    The politicians insisted that all traffic signal engineers and electricians be on duty overnight. Although what 10 engineers and 8 electricians were supposed to do about 500 traffic signal intersections (in seven counties) failing at the same instant, nobody could say.

    Of course, come the morning of January first, all you had was a bunch of engineers and technicians filling in their time sheets for triple overtime pay and saying “I told you so”.

  3. I think those companies that do not get the contract for the Metro cars will be the lucky bidders. This one is too close to the cesspit for comfort.

  4. Mister Landey:

    So tell me again, using small words, how Chinese rail equipment constitutes an espionage threat? And keep it simple – I’m just a housewife in a small town in the forest. We can ignore the fact that, in addition to various other certifications, I have a Professional Engineer licence – I am only a woman, remember that above all things.

    There was a facility I was at once, where only someone with my skills (and I was requested to be at this facility) could render a valid opinion. However it was decided that I could not enter the structure in question as an issue of national security. They never resolved that particular catch-22. The facility was later shut down, in part because what was in that building could not be properly certified.

    Los comentarios anteriores son de naturaleza general y no forman la base para una relación de abogado / cliente. No constituyen asesoramiento jurídico. Yo no soy tu abogado. Encuentra tu propio maldito abogado.

  5. What real economic benefit is there to a city where a railcar plant operates for a couple of years, and then moves on to the next city that demands local benefit.

  6. Robert, Good comment –

    Anna I’ve been known to push electrons for a living, though my degree is in Civil Engineering. Last week when we had our breakfast meeting with my former work team, it was one EE, three CE’s, all of us electron pushers.

    In small words here’s how a railcar deep underground in DeeCee will spy on NSA in Maryland or CIA in Virginia: In small words, it won’t.

    I always tell the story about how my brother had to pass through security to get the two of us into HIS OWN OFFICE at a tech firm in Massachusetts that was working on guidance controls for the Apollo moon mission. But the security guard didn’t ask who I was. The two of us simply walked in.

    Brother sat down at a terminal for one of the mega-computers of that day. He asked me to name a state. I said Michigan. Then he asked for a city. I said Hamtramck. I needed to spell Hamtramck as there were no drop-down menus in those days. So he typed in Hamtramck. He went to the printer and came back with a list of every beer can that ever came out of Hamtramck, Michigan.

    A year or two later, when brother (and his co-workers) were nursing the blown-up Apollo 13 back to safety on Earth, all I could think about was the spacecraft’s guidance computer spitting out lists of beer cans made in Hamtramck, Michigan.

  7. Mister Landey:

    Thank you Sir, you have made my point precisely. It can’t.

    I see immediately two possibilities, not necessarily mutually exclusive, and not exclusive of a larger number of possibilities.

    1. The Washington area Senators in question (see, she even reads!) know this and are using it as a smoke screen to deflect the bidding process.

    2. The Washington area Senators in question do not know or do not care, and actually believe what they are espousing.

    If case (1) we the public are being shorted because the bidding process is distorted by a hidden agenda. This is not service in the public interest and therefore could be considered to constitute misfeasance.

    If case (2) we the public are being governed and led by incompetents or seriously misinformed people, neither of which options bodes well for the public weal.

    It is cynical and hopefully not accurate to suggest these same Senators know what they are doing and are using scare tactics so as to move the bidding process in a desired direction. Not only would such a scenario be unethical but also indicative of corruption on a high level.

    However, the other scenario is even more frightening.

    And as we all know, such a thing could never come to pass in the US of A. Nosireebob, it can’t happen here…

    On the other hand, I am only a housewife. Like Ugarti, who am I to have an opinion?

    Los comentarios anteriores son de naturaleza general y no forman la base para una relación de abogado / cliente. No constituyen asesoramiento jurídico. Yo no soy tu abogado. Encuentra tu propio chingada abogado.

  8. James Shigley, that article is actually nonsense, and I read it elsewhere, not on the telegram website, of course on the site I read it on even the author said all of the proposed ideas were a joke as none of them would even possible work as suggested or intended.

  9. Mister Cupp:

    You just asked what should be the defining question, all other things being equal.

    I would very much like to see a North American design and assembly facility to service the North American market. Transit appears to be a growing market, perhaps someone can step up, design and build a quality product for a competitive price, and thereby get a chunk of this market.

    Comentariile de mai sus sunt de natura generala ?i nu constituie baza unei rela?ii avocat / client. Ele nu constituie consiliere juridica. Nu sunt avocatul tau. Gasi?i propria ta avocata

  10. Now, someone please explain to me how a railcar can be an espionage device. Use small words, please, I am poorly educated and have only a Ph.D. Thank you.

    The above comments are general in nature and do not form the basis for an attorney/client relationship. They do not constitute legal advice. I am not your attorney. Find your own damn lawyer.

  11. Kinda ridiculous to make them build a plant in EVERY city they build equipment for. Would be like asking for a factory to build your fleet of new police cars, buses, maintenance vehicles. Building them in one of the existing U.S. plants should be sufficient

  12. You would like to think that our two locomotive builders could build commuter and light rail vehicles as well. It seems to be a growing business.

  13. Ms. Harding: Any device with a chip that connects to the web, or any software controlling a complex operation such as a transit system, can be equipped with the capability of launching targeted spyware, spreading malware, and doing other bad things. Bad actors could equip the software to shut down on signal, such as when the National Terrorism Advisory System issued a threat warning.

  14. Arthur and Anna, Anyone who wants to do electronic espionage can do it by modifying any one of 100,000,000 devices and they don’t need a railcar to do it.

    The railcar would be the last suspect because it only goes a certain number of places almost all of which are shielded by meters of reinforced concrete.

    Did you know planes fly over the CIA and the Pentagon both in Virginia? I saw both from the same flight coming into Ronald Reagan.

  15. Charles, I thought the original Y2K issue was with devices that only used the last two digits as the date code. Which were, like, REALLY old in 1999, ya know, since the programmers in the 60’s didn’t have enough memory to include the ’19’ in the year, so they just skipped it.
    So, when 12/31/99 became 01/01/00, all those ‘dumb’ chips would get confused and stop functioning. Anything with a 4-digit date code would be fine, since the counters would just keep a’ countin’.

    Is my memory correct, or am I just ruminating here?

  16. Walter — Well your memory is correct, but the upshot is for the most part incorrect. Not knowing what year doesn’t necessarily shot down the device. For example, the traffic signal controllers I mentioned. Suppose (as a hypothetical) a traffic signal controller is so dumb it doesn’t know the year after Y2K. But it very well might know the day of the week and the time of the day. So (hypothetically) if a traffic signal is programmed to change from permissive left to protected left at 6:00 AM on Monday morning, what difference does the year make? It’s still 6:00 AM on Monday morning.

  17. I seem to remember legislation that required companies to submit a report to some agency of the gov’mint detailing how they were preparing for the potential catastrophe of Y2K. I received some of those reports as a customer of some of those companies. As for me, all I did was look at my Casio digital watch as it simply flipped over to “00” and continued working fine. It still is.

  18. While some things could be hidden in the electronics on the cars, I see that espionage risk as being orders of magnitude lower than the risks posed by publicly available information or information that could be readily collected in public places. As for technologies to monitor riders and ridership, that information is already being collected. Cell phone signals are already being picked up and sent out to the cellular network. It would be easier and quicker to tap into the existing systems (and give you much more information) than to depend upon using a new system that won’t be deployed for years and won’t provide as much coverage.

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