Beat the clock

The Defense Department is chock-full of systems software engineering expertise, and
DOD's systems chief and comptroller intend to play hardball to make the military services
apply that expertise to the year 2000 conversion.


A memo signed by DOD systems chief Emmett Paige Jr. and chief financial officer John J.
Hamre will carry the message to the troops that they either upload an inventory of their
information systems and interfaces to DOD's repository or risk being "defunded."


Since 1994, Defense agencies have been under a mandatory requirement to use the Defense
Information Systems Agency's Defense Integration Support Tool as the official database of
record for all DOD information systems. Now DOD's good systems engineering advice will be
heeded--or else. The deadline is Dec. 31, 1996.


Carla von Bernewitz, the year 2000 program manager in the Office of the Secretary of
Defense, credited DOD's Year 2000 interface workshops with hardening everyone's resolve to
get the troops moving. "Mr. Paige and Mr. Hamre are saying if you don't have your
system information in the repository, then it isn't important enough to be funded,"
she said.


Even agencies not subject to DOD's new hardball approach would do well to follow the
DOD example of repository-based systems engineering, von Bernewitz said. If they look
around, agencies might even find some Mil-Spec systems engineering tools that have been
repackaged and pressed into service for 2000.


One such toolsuite and methodology is Year 2000plus from Ascent Logic Corp. of San
Jose, Calif. With core technology from its work for the Army Ballistic Missile Command,
Ascent Logic has military roots grounded in embedded systems.


Larry McArthur, the company's chief executive officer, admits to having written a lot
of code himself using two-digit year fields. But he laments that everybody seems so
focused now on changing date fields, nobody seems to understand this is a huge systems
engineering problem.


With his large-systems engineering bias, McArthur thinks government agencies would do
well to tackle their year 2000 chores by using an object repository and code-independent
models.


Ascent Logic's suite makes three kinds of code-independent models. The
"dependency" model is the big one for the inventory stage, which is where many
government agencies still are at this time.


Most people have built their information systems using "Christmas tree
engineering," says McArthur, and they're afraid to take something out because they're
really not sure what it does. The dependency model removes that uncertainty.


Then there's the "triage" model, which quantifies the risk associated with
not fixing a certain system or interface. And last, the "transition" model helps
coordinate code fixes and final integration testing. Realistically, it's going to be 2005
or later before everyone finishes this engineering and takes down the last firewalls,
McArthur believes.


Even with automated tools, the government won't have an easy time deciding which
programs to save and which to mothball or leave to die. It's going to be gut-wrenching.



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