The security week that was: 05/01/09

When big security contracts go bad

Just because you get the big contract doesn’t mean life is good. Sometimes your customer can be your own worst enemy.

That’s the lesson that Lockheed Martin is apparently learning as it seeks to exit a contract with New York’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA). The contract dates to 2005, and was for delivering surveillance cameras and security sensors that would aid in securing the city’s subway system. It was, as many of us thought, to be the showcase project for mass transit security. It turns out that it’s more like a showcase project for difficult relations between a client and a technology contractor.

Lockheed Martin is asking a federal judge to release them from a contract with the MTA (a contract which has already reached $250 million). Lockheed is saying it’s losing $3 million a month on this project in terms of stalled workers who could be on other projects, and it says the MTA is not giving them the access they need to certain subway tunnels to complete the project. Even worse, Lockheed says that some of the communications rooms they were to use are already filled to the brim with existing hardware, leaving no room for them to put the new equipment in place. And in other locations, Lockheed is saying it doesn’t have the basic network connectivity it needs for this integrated anti-terrorism system. The suit alleges: “"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.”

The MTA was pretty mum about the whole thing to the New York Post, so it’s hard to say how much of Lockheed’s claims are accurate without hearing from the MTA, but you have to believe Lockheed if they’re ready to walk away from a contract that’s already pulled in a quarter of a billion dollars. So, anyone want to bid on this project once Lockheed pulls out? Does your company need a massive write-off where it would actually like to lose $3 million a day? If so, contact the MTA – it sounds like they’ll be needing a new contractor soon.

Swine flu pandemonium
Don’t freak out, but take the time to get some planning done

I was speaking with Joel Griffin, our assistant editor at SIW, about some writing projects he’d need to take on while I’m out for an upcoming vacation. He laughs and tells me that it’s really not worth planning content for a couple weeks out since we’ll all be dead by then anyway from swine flu. I respond by telling him it’s still safe to eat barbecue in Georgia and that he should stock up on pork chops while the prices are depressed.

In all seriousness, though, it seems too early to predict whether this swine flu (properly referred to as H1N1 since it isn’t passed along from swine at all, really) is going to be the pandemic that the mass consumer media wants it to be. At this point, it seems like everything is out of proportion here. There were 8 cases of swine flu in the U.S. a week ago and now there are 141 (per CDC numbers). For a pandemic, that doesn’t seem like particularly strong growth. Remember that this is similar to influenza, a “cold” so common that many in the U.S. can’t even be bothered to get the annual flu shot.

Still, we’re not ready to write this one off. There is some good information out there, with some posted on the ASIS site (see this article about where to find this info), a free training video on fighting the flu provided by the Security Executive Council, and plenty of risk management firms advising companies on business continuity in a real pandemic. I’d say that, even if this is a false alarm, it’s worth taking the time to develop a component of your overall security and risk mitigation plan that deals with a pandemic. As a security director, it’s never too early to do that kind of preparation.

Finally, a look at some stories of the week:
TWIC, school violence, false alarm reduction, more

TSA Public Affairs spokesperson Greg Soule shares notes from the TSA on where the TWIC program stands and what is happening with the pilot projects. … Seattle says it is seeing a reduction in false alarms thanks to its alarm policy (which involves ECV). … Chicago Public Schools names a new security chief (Michelle Obama's cousin) as it tackles the very serious issue of a rise in violent deaths of its students. … For manufacturers, be aware that the chip-making industry is facing almost as much of a business struggle as U.S. automakers, and on that front, NEC and Renesas are merging with hopes to survive the downturn by consolidating. … The gunman at Hampton University is said to have gained access to the building by tailgating through an otherwise secured access point.