Sunday, October 25, 2009

D.C. Metro and U.S. Airports Outsourcing Technology, Software Development

Travel Safety in the Skies and on Rail: At What Cost to the American Public?

-D.C. Metro and U.S. Airports Outsourcing Tech Development-

For Immediate Release

Washington – Fly the Scary Skies may soon become our national airline industry's leading soundbite, as job losses, pilot/controller fatigue, cutbacks in pilot pay and eroding quality of service abound in the once vibrant “friendly skies” of American air travel. Earlier this week, a Northwest Airbus A-320 overshot its Minneapolis runway destination by nearly 150 miles, leading to speculation that the pilot and co-pilot fell asleep in the cockpit or were somehow otherwise distracted. In America these days, Michael Moore reports pilots are on food stamps. BTW, our own national hero, Pilot Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger has no pension and his pay was reduced by 40% as LWOH reported here.

And how about rail safety? Although no conclusive findings have yet to surface from the NTSB regarding the cause of this year's June 22nd fatal D.C. Metro Red Line crash that killed 9 people and injured at least 80, the Washington Post reports this week that Metro has been working with Annapolis-based ARINC, a transportation communications and engineering systems company to develop a backup for the train protection, or track circuit, system. As LWOH reported here, speculation into computer failure as the cause has yet to be ruled out.

Annapolis, MD headquartered ARINC Incorporated, a portfolio company of The Carlyle Group, provides communications, engineering and integration solutions for commercial, defense and government customers worldwide. ARINC also announced this week that its Managed Services and ServicePower partnership is launching its news On-call IT support for small and non-hub airports. What a great opportunity for U.S. unemployed techies, right? So where are they getting the “On-call IT” support developers from? Will ARINC and ServicePower hire the unemployed and underemployed U.S. IT developers (h/t who have been replaced by cheap imported labor to put the “Q” back into quality software development and support? Incidentally, UK based ServicePower Technologies Plc is an outsourcing software company that just announced on Sept. 30 that it axed 47 jobs after losses. Well, if American software developers aren't profiting by getting these jobs, who is profiting? Metro needs reliable software programs:

Metro uses a software program to check for circuit malfunctions. Since the Red Line crash, those software checks have been run twice a day to look for anomalies. If problems are found, crews are sent to inspect the circuit; if necessary, adjustments are made on the spot. Circuits might be disabled if fixes can't be made immediately.

But the software check occurs after rush hour; the new program would run in real time. Officials said they plan to run both systems next week to see whether they pick up the same malfunctions.”

In an interesting side note, the WaPo article adds that ARINC has a $15 million contract with Metro “to provide electronics for the agency's backup operations control center in suburban Maryland and upgrade equipment at the main control center in downtown Washington.” But Metro officials have repeatedly declined to disclose how much the company is charging the transit agency for the additional work on track circuits. Why not disclose the amount for the additional work?

Hopefully, Metro, ARINC and Google all would agree that quality IT development and support deliverables are non-negotiable to ensure public safety. This, all Americans would agree, surely takes precedence over executive and government personnel profiteering at the expense of Joe and  Jane Taxpayer's safety.

Metro officials also told a board committee Thursday that the agency is ready to move forward by Jan. 1 to offer riders Google Transit, an online mapping tool, “if key issues can be resolved.” What key issues might those be? “Among them: persuading Google to agree to exempt Metro from liability for downloading corrupt data and Google's request that data be provided in a format that would require more work from Metro employees.”

Why would Metro possibly anticipate “corrupt data downloads” from Google's IT employees and/or contractors? Aren't they supposed to be the best and brightest? How many of them are imported? Given Metro's crash track record, it comes as no surprise that they might not want a lawsuit against them if Google's IT developers provide corrupt data. (OK, sure, nobody is perfect but taking an “accidents happen” attitude about public safety in exchange for profit motives is not applicable here.) And why would Google request that “the data be provided in a format that would require more work from Metro employees”? Ah, for the bygone days when professional American programmers, pilots and engineers were compensated for their education and leadership with good pay and benefits... But such trivial incentives are no longer necessary, as our feudal slave lord inspired government agencies and neo-frat boy run corporations can't seem to get enough Burnt Fries. Who needs skilled American professionals when our politicians can become rich brokering third world imports to take U.S. jobs and drive down wages?

While Metro may be moving closer to sharing data with Google Transit, Metro’s top technical people say that Google Transit may be available to their riders, as Michael Neibauer reports in Examiner, “but only if the search engine giant is willing to abide by the agency’s terms, specifically Metro’s demand that it is shielded from lawsuits spurred by bad data.” Metro has shared data previously under terms which include the right to “institute a license fee at any time” and indemnification….But Google, which has relationships with 121 transit systems nationwide, has refused to meet Metro’s demands.

What to do about improving rail safety standards? There is no federal agency that mandates technology standards for rapid transit systems to date, but there IS a Federal agency that legally allows corporations and gov't. agencies to transfer American jobs to cheap, imported H-1B visa and green card holders.

Forbes recently reported that IT outsourcing poses risks. Isn't it time that the Hope 'n Change administration got onboard the right track to stop it? The United State of Slave Labor has devolved into a cheap labor junkie, willing to risk passenger safety and destroy the quality of life for our best and brightest American professionals like Pilot Sully and millions of other educated Americans who have been kicked to the curb for cheap imported labor so a few beltway and corporate “thought leaders” can wildly, wildly profit. Will citizens of the USA unite to stop these abusive H-1B/green card hiring practices and restore civility and quality again in the workplace on the ground and in the skies?

One of the most popular albeit fellatious fallacious arguments in favor of outsourcing/insourcing cheap imported labor is that there is just not enough gosh darn money for corporations and government agencies to pay competitive wages/benefits commensurate with local standards of living to our educated citizens. Author David Zirin offers this insightful article entitled DC Metro Crash: Who Will Die Next Because We Throw Money at Billionaries and Scrimp on the Public Good? and describes how publicly funded stadiums have become a substitute for urban policy and asks why the District is on the hook for a $700 million ballpark when funds could be spent on upgrading the Metro. It also looks at “the twisted policies of the underfunded Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority” or what the Brookings Institution calls “deficits by design.”

The WMATA gets no dedicated federal funds despite the fact that it serves thousands of federal workers. In fact, it has no dedicated source of funds at all, depending on fares and ads for three-fifths of its budget.”

Zirin suggests that Americans question our priorities here:

This is a question of priorities, plain and simple. But not our priorities. A majority of DC-area residents opposed the public funding of the stadiums. These are the priorities of power and they must be opposed at all costs. The advice of peace activist Sister Joan Chittister has some relevance here. "Anger is not bad," she has said. "Anger can be a very positive thing, the thing that moves us beyond the acceptance of evil." It's time to get angry. Or the next city may be your own.”

All aboard, America?


1 comment:

Chip Coltan said...

US corps need more talented and skilled leaders like Sully.Notice in the video how he is humble and controlled.When was the last time you saw a CEO take the attitude of improving product care and support delivery at the expense of their own personal profits?The Metro crash should have been a wake-up call for government agencies to put the brakes on cheap contractors.

What a train-wreck, this outsourcing jobs for cheap workers thing.