New life for AUTODIN?

A Defense Information Systems Agency operational assessment of DMS conducted late last
year found that training shortfalls have delayed initial operational tests and evaluations
until June-a critical milestone for officials to determine whether DMS is ready for
full-scale deployment.

 Nevertheless, other DISA officials said they are confident that DMS will pass
IOT&E tests with flying colors and be ready for the phase out of AUTODIN.

 "We're still planning to go to IOT&E in June," Capt. James Day, DMS
program director, said. "We have sensitive and unclassified up and running today.
We'll have secret and classified up in order 
to support AUTODIN phase out on Dec. 31, 1999."

 Because DMS uses commercial products, DMS contractors will have to upgrade two
operating systems to eliminate any year 2000 date code problems. One of the operating
systems is Hewlett-Packard Co.'s HP-UX Version 9.05, which will be replaced with version
10.3. DISA officials refused to reveal the second operating system. 


If there are major problems with DMS operational testing this summer, DOD will have to
consider extending AUTODIN. Time is not on DOD's side.

 The AUTODIN Master Plan calls for phasing out the system by Dec. 31, 1999. But the
unofficial February 1998 drop-dead date chops almost two years off the time DOD has to
decide whether to extend AUTODIN's service life to give the department enough lead time to
devise a year 2000 patch.

 The DMS team is working with the services to pinpoint systems that interface with
AUTODIN and must work into 2000, Clarke said. "The services either have activities
under way to get the Y2K problem fixed in the event that they are going to remain beyond
AUTODIN closure or make sure that they're going to get phased out if they can't or
shouldn't be fixed."

 AUTODIN's hardware, leased from GTE Corp. for DOD's U.S. switching centers, presents
another obstacle. The 10th and final option year under the AUTODIN contract with GTE also
expires Dec. 31, 1999. But DOD cannot legally extend the contract.

 The agency would need an acquisition rule change to negotiate a contract extension.
DISA officials, as a possible escape clause, are reluctantly contemplating recompeting the
AUTODIN contract.

 "Keep in mind that AUTODIN is 35-plus years old and the contract has been
extended to the point where we're at the limit," Clarke said. "We're now at the
point where we'd have to recompete. You can imagine how thrilled we are about recompeting
AUTODIN this time around."  


AUTODIN program manager Terry Damon added that it would be cost-prohibitive to
recompete the contract because the existing infrastructure owned by GTE would have to be
replaced if an award were made to another vendor.

 DOD has already begun phasing out some parts of AUTODIN. It has shuttered six
switches since 1991 through DOD downsizing efforts. 

There are nine AUTODIN switches worldwide, but in May DOD will reduce that number to eight
with the closure of an AUTODIN facility in Albany, Ga. For overseas service, DOD operates
AUTODIN switching sites in Germany, Japan and the United Kingdom.

 "We're going to do what we have to do to continue to maintain our
mission," Clarke said. "But there are no attractive alternatives when you start
looking at extending the life of AUTODIN." 


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