Home Subway Security Lockheed, MTA butt heads over security contract

Lockheed, MTA butt heads over security contract

by Benjamin Kabak

Over the last few years, I’ve written extensively about MTA security issues. It’s been nearly eight years since the 9/11 attacks, and the agency’s security efforts have been stymied, as State Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli noted in November, by nearly every problem on the books. From a lack of technological compatibility to bureaucratic inefficiencies, the MTA has tried to institute some sort of closed circuit surveillance system in the subways with little success.

Yesterday, this issue came to a head as defense contractor Lockheed Martin sued the MTA in an effort to get out of its contract. Lockheed says that the MTA is responsible for the delays in the project and has been less that cooperative in helping out with the job.

The Post’s Bruce Golding, Tom Namako and Larry Celona first reported on the lawsuit yesterday. They write:

Lockheed is claiming losses of $3 million a month while “key personnel” remain in place on the stalled project, and says it will file a separate suit to recover damages.

The company, which was supposed to be done with the job last August, blames the MTA for refusing to let it work inside a series of “under river tunnels,” including four beneath the East River linking Manhattan and Queens.

Lockheed’s Manhattan federal court filing says the contract guaranteed it access to one of the four East River tunnels for at least 55 hours each weekend. “Currently, there is no schedule in place,” the suit says.

Lockheed also accuses the MTA of failing to clear out existing communication rooms for necessary upgrades. The rooms are cluttered with other contractors’ equipment, while several “have water infiltration, the presence of which makes it unsafe to perform work due to the risk of electrocution,” and many “have inadequate electricity which is essential to perform the work.”

Perhaps worst of all, “none of the communication rooms have necessary network access, the absence of which makes it impossible for Lockheed Martin to install communication systems that will actually transmit information,” according to the suit.

Those are pretty damning allegations from one of the nation’s leading contractors, and the timing could not be worse for an MTA already combating public image problems. The agency has already paid out $250 million on a contract originally valued at $212 million in 2005, and there is no end in sight to the project.

From a security perspective, this is, needless to say, alarming. The open nature of the city’s transit infrastructure make it a very vulnerable target to an attack, and this project was supposed to help secure it. Meanwhile, from an institutional perspective, this filing simply gives more ammo to MTA detractors who view it as a barely functioning bureaucratic mess. That the MTA is just bleeding money everywhere these days makes it all the more worse.

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rhywun April 29, 2009 - 8:41 am

I thought the bag searches were going to solve everything :/

Gary Reilly April 29, 2009 - 9:59 am

I stopped by the rally yesterday in Union Square – pretty well attended for a one-off, Facebook thing.

This process is exhausting – so many legislators to lobby, so many red herring plans being tossed around. And it just keeps dragging out, as we slowly approach our doom.

As to this . . . I recall reading a few years back when I was in school about a competitive phone carrier that needed to put some switching equipment in the incumbents building. No way, they said, we haven’t enough room for our own equipment! They used every procedural trick to drag out the lawsuit and finally, the judge forced them to let the competitor visit the space . . . . a huge, mostly empty building.

With that in mind, recall that in the hands a clever and unscrupulous lawyer, one hammer laying on the floor in one switching station can magically translate to “rooms . . . cluttered with other contractors’ equipment”.

Ariel April 29, 2009 - 11:59 am

Maybe it would be best for the MTA to default on its loans and restructure. The mayor could oversee the subway and buses and the governor could handle the commuter trains.

As long as the MTA is an independent agency dependent on Albany, it will always be a mess, financially and structurally. We need to give our mass transit more accountability by linking it to elected officials. Until that happens, we can expect more fundamental problems arising from our transit system.

Josh K April 29, 2009 - 1:15 pm

Contractors are some of the most wicked scum and villainy in the Tri-State region. Any government funded construction project south of the Duchess/ Puntnam County line is going to be a disaster. You won’t get what you actually wanted, when you wanted it or for anything even close to what you thought you were paying for it.

Any contracting firm that puts in the lowest bid on a government construction project, is obviously pretty desperately looking for work. During the 2003-2007 construction boom in NYC, any contractor worth a damn, had more work than they had people to cover. Thus any contractor that was looking for work during that period must not be that great, or they would have been making money hand over fist on private sector hotel/ condo construction.

I personally don’t understand what is so hard about putting in a system wide CCTV system. Get some power-over ethernet IP-based cameras, run all the ethernet cables in conduit back a closet, put in a mid-priced Cisco router with fiber output and install some fiber between stations. At certain points, connect the fiber backbone to the existing fiber optic conduit system owned by Empire City Subway (underground telcom conduit company), and run back to whatever MTA offices you want. In fact if the MTA were smart, they’d run like 128 pair fibers all throughout their system, for track signalling, message boards, fare collection, wifi, communications, cctv, etc.

anonymouse April 29, 2009 - 5:22 pm

Okay, so you have a cheap webcam you bought from J&R, how well does it stand up to tunnel dust? Train vibrations? Low light levels in the tunnel? Or if the camera doesn’t deal well with low light levels, you’re going to have to install lighting too. And this installation most likely has to happen without a shutdown of the service, or at best a weekend shutdown. Things aren’t as simple as they might seem. I also don’t think that using contractors is necessarily a good idea: at least with MTA employees you can assume that they can be trusted to work on an active train line with live third rails and the like. For contractors, they have to shut down the track and put up fences to keep them off the neighboring tracks.

dont_know_much_about_transit May 11, 2009 - 3:39 pm

Thats funny…I thought Transit was a transit company?! Maybe they should give it to a real telecom company to do it…just a thought.

MTA files countersuit against Lockheed :: Second Ave. Sagas | A New York City Subway Blog June 25, 2009 - 1:32 am

[…] the state of various MTA security project bubbled over. During the last week of April, Lockheed sued the MTA to get out of its contract. The defense contractor alleged that the MTA had basically interfered […]


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