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Report: DOD's Y2K efforts lacking

Failure of "at least some [Defense] mission-critical systems and the operations they support is almost certain," according to a government report.

The Department of Defense's efforts to fix its computer systems for the year 2000 are moving at a snail's pace, making failure of "at least some mission-critical systems and the operations they support almost certain," according to a government report released yesterday.

In its report to Congress, the U.S. General Accounting Office chastised the DOD for not establishing key management and oversight controls to enforce good management practices and for not establishing a complete picture of its progress.

As a result, according to the report, "Defense lacks any complete and reliable information on its systems, interfaces, other equipment needing repair, and the cost of its correction efforts," for the 1.5 million computers, 28,000 systems, and 10,000 networks within DOD.

The GAO also said the lack of a key management plan has increased the risk that Year 2000 errors will be spread from one agency's systems to another. The problems also mean systems and interfaces will not be tested thoroughly and components will not be prepared should their systems miss the Year 2000 deadline or fail unexpectedly in operation.

"Each one of these problems seriously endangers Defense's chances of successfully meeting the Year 2000 deadline for mission-critical systems ....together, they make failure of at least some mission-critical systems and the operations they support almost certain unless corrective actions are taken," GAO said in the report.

The GAO report is just the latest in a series of federal reports released over the past six months on the issue. In March, the Office of Management and Budget released their latest quarterly report on all federal efforts addressing the issue. It pointed out a number of agencies not making adequate progress, including the Labor, Energy, Education, Health and Human Services, and Transportation departments.

Susan Hansen, the public affairs officer at the Department of Defense fielding questions on the issue, said no one at the agency is taking the issue lightly. "We have a massive program in place. We're the largest agency with the most systems," she said.

Although there is no way of promising that every single one will make the Year 2000 deadline, Hanson said, "Every mission-critical system, and there are 3,000 in all, will be ready."

The director of government-wide defense computer systems at GAO, Jack Brock, said the report was consistent with a number of smaller ones done by his agency on the DOD over the past year or so. "If you don't have good management in place, you don't have a good program in place to fix the problem."

Hansen said William Curtis, special assistant to the assistant Secretary of Defense, has assumed the leadership position on Y2K for the DOD. He is currently assembling a staff.

For now, Brock said his agency is working with the Joint Chiefs of Staff on a list of 20 mission-critical systems identified as crucial to support any war fighting efforts.