A new amendment to the fiscal year 2020 transportation appropriations bill seeks to prohibit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro) from buying railcars manufactured by Chinese firms.
The proposal came from Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), who is currently the head of Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
According to Norton and other supporters of the bill, the necessity stems from the cybersecurity concerns centering around Chinese-made products.
“The security of public transit in the nation’s capital must be a top priority,” Norton said last month regarding the amendment. “China is not making these railcars so cheaply out of the goodness of their hearts. Until we have irrefutable evidence, we must not turn a blind eye to the clear incentive China has to monitor our capital and undermine our security.”
Anthony Brown (D-MD), who is also supporting the change, said “As the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) procures its 8,000-series rail cars, it must address concerns that could impact our long-term national and economic security.”
“The company that is awarded the contract will have access to the tunnels and underground infrastructure in Washington, D.C. – including at the Pentagon, State Department and the U.S. Capitol, and the new train cars could be vulnerable to malicious software, surveillance, and sabotage. WMATA must prioritize security over any short-term cost savings,” he continued.
The security of public transit in the nation’s capital must be a top priority. That’s why I led a letter with @GerryConnolly and @RepAnthonyBrown against funds being used to buy railcars made by state-owned Chinese companies.
— Eleanor Holmes Norton (@EleanorNorton) May 7, 2019
Capital Region Members wrote in their letter:
“Critical infrastructure systems around the country have been increasingly targeted in recent years as part of coordinated hacking attempts and other forms of interference, often carried out by, or at the direction of, foreign governments. In the transportation sector, there has been increased interest from some of these same foreign governments, acting through state-owned intermediaries, to participate in state and local procurements, including those to manufacture and assemble railcars for transit agencies around the country.”
“While other jurisdictions have welcomed this investment, as Metro moves forward with its procurement process for the 8,000-series railcar, we have serious concerns about similar activity in the National Capital Region, particularly when it could involve foreign governments that have sought to undermine our country’s economic competitiveness and national security.”
If the amendment is approved, no contract for purchasing railcars from foreign state-owned corporations would be eligible for receiving federal funding. The amendment will be evaluated by the Rules Committee.