Friday, December 14, 2007

"It seems like a way to put Lockheed in charge of maximizing imports from China."

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New NASCO NAFTA Superhighway Docs Released From MnDOT

December 14th, 2007

by Dan Feidt
Politics in Minnesota
Copyright 2007

The design of transportation systems carries its own ideology: the routes, exit placement, the eminent domain actions, the financing, carpool or toll road lanes; all these issues loom large in Minnesota, especially since no one can agree how to pay for needed work. St. Paul's Rondo neighborhood, the heart of the black community, got split in half by I-94, and many people today fear similar effects from massive new roads.

Recently, people on the 'fringes' of the left and right who might be considered hostile to corporate globalization have talked about a 'NAFTA Superhighway' project which would link Mexico, Canada, and the United States, but little hard evidence illustrates how this plan could work.

first reported in July that a Twin Cities lawyer, Nathan Hansen, used Data Practices Act requests from MnDOT to get several rounds of documents released regarding NASCO, the North American Super Corridor Coalition, a non-profit organization based in Texas. Hansen has kept at it (here's his blog), filing a lawsuit to leverage the release of more documents, more of which finally came out recently. packaged everything MnDOT released into a ZIP archive of PDFs (60 MB!).

These MnDOT documents clearly show that NASCO was set up as a "systems integrator" to oversee NAFTRACS, a project led by Lockheed Martin's subsidiary SAVI Networks to build a complete cargo monitoring and security regime, which would include placing up to 200 RFID truck monitoring stations along Interstates 35 and 94.

The entire 'Network Infrastructure' would be overseen by "Total Transportation Domain Awareness Centers of Excellence," which seemingly would fuse all available sources of data, including weather, RFID, cargo tracking, intelligence and security cameras, into NORAD-like Command and Control centers.

Effectively, as the docs say, this would 'militarize' cargo along I-35, by cloning SAVI's current military shipping container tracking system at their "Lighthouse" research lab, which already runs the Global Transportation Network.

The NASCO/SAVI Letter of Intent clearly states that SAVI, i.e. Lockheed, would have exclusive rights to market the data collected by NASCO's 'Network Infrastructure'. NASCO's intended role as a 'systems integrator,' specified in their application for federal cash, seems a similar setup to the Coast Guard Deepwater arrangement that led to a complete mess, as reported earlier this year. NASCO would control all sub-contracts for the system, with a focus on generating marketable business data and supply-chain logistics from everyone using I-35 for freight.

In April, Brad Larsen, MnDOT's Federal Relations Manager, and the U's Center for Transportation Studies Director Bob Johns, discussed over emails that "it sounds like NASCO has a couple very interesting projects going on - the NAFTRACS project involves Lockheed." The other responds, "Our local Lockheed office seems to be a big player--influencing earmarks. Not sure what we will do." Elsewhere, the Eagan Lockheed office is described as a leading team for collecting the NAFTRACS business data.

I will resist speculating on 'what it all means,' since clearly this complex plan is international in scope.

The document batch is hundreds of pages long, and I have not reviewed all of it. Your Web Editor, who discovered all this, wants to stress: this plan seems to promote long-range shipping at the expense of developing local economies, and it seems unreasonable for Lockheed to get all the data from such a plan. It seems like a way to put Lockheed in charge of maximizing imports from China, when our efforts could be better directed towards non-intrusive local economic development and non-contractor-dominated security systems, instead.

This doc dump cries out for a mass of bloggers to digest it: are there any takers out there?

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