GCCS flunks 2000 test -
- By Gregory Slabodkin
- Sep 15, 1997
During a recent test, the Defense Department's Global Command and Control System failed
when the date was rolled over to the year 2000.
The system failure occurred Aug. 1 during the closing hours of this year's Joint
Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, an exercise conducted annually to demonstrate
emerging technologies that are designed to improve command, control, communications,
computers and intelligence operations. DOD held JWID '97 from July 7 to Aug. 1 at 45 sites
With a little more than two years left to revise problem date code, the inability of
the department's premier command and control system to pass a year 2000 experiment has
given DOD officials pause.
"This is a very serious problem," said Marvin Langston, the Navy's chief
information officer, in an Aug. 29 policy paper. "Since the problem is known, it can
be remedied before the results are catastrophic or significant--if action is taken
The cause of the failure was the SunSoft Solaris operating system running on Sun
Microsystems Inc. workstations, according to a draft report by the JWID Project Office.
"We have been told by demonstration sponsors around the globe that the systems
that run on Solaris 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 software versions are not year 2000-compliant,"
said Lt. Cmdr. Mark Harvey, technical director for the JWID program.
"We were also told that the Hewlett-Packard Unix versions used were all year
2000-compliant and passed the test," Harvey said. "So anything that was running
on HP Unix worked. Anything that had Solaris did not."
GCCS 2.2, the current version deployed to the field, runs under several different
operating systems, including Solaris 2.5.1, Microsoft Windows NT, and HP-UX 9.0.7 and
Eight allied nations participated in JWID '97, including Canada, which has bought GCCS
2.2 for evaluation purposes.
Sun officials questioned whether the failures were the result of the OS or the
"Even if the operating system is year 2000-compliant, that doesn't automatically
mean that all the applications that run on it are," said John Leahy, government
markets manager at Sun Microsystems Federal Inc.
"We can make the operating system year 2000-compliant, but we can't make all the
applications year 2000-compliant," Leahy said. "When JWID had problems, it led
me to believe there was a problem with the software applications."
But JWID officials rejected the assertion that the GCCS software itself was to blame
for the failure.
"We have no indication that the common operational picture software we developed
for JWID had a problem," Harvey said.
"If a system is operated on Solaris 2.5 or earlier, there is a possibility for Y2K
The Defense Information Systems Agency knows that it has a problem to resolve, and
that's why the agency is moving quickly to GCCS 3.0, Harvey said.
But DISA plans call for using Solaris 2.5 for GCCS Version 3.0, which the agency will
release in January.
Sun's Leahy said the problem is surmountable, if DOD users upgrade to Solaris 2.6.
Unaware of the JWID '97 year 2000 test, Leahy said, SunSoft recently finished the next
upgrade of its OS. Solaris 2.6 has year 2000 support, World Wide Web management and
documentation, and a 64-bit file system, he said.
SunSoft began shipping Solaris 2.6 last month.
DOD users running earlier versions of Solaris and other Unix platforms can upgrade to
Solaris 2.6, or soon they will be able to get a date code patch for earlier Solaris
versions, said Joe Alexander, Trusted Solaris product line manager.
"Our patches for year 2000 compliance were not scheduled to be provided by SunSoft
to the field until the end of this month, so there was no solution available at the time
that JWID was conducted," Alexander said.
The year 2000 JWID experiment, which included 28 technology demonstrations, was
specifically designed to identify and evaluate potential date code problems in C4I
systems. Operating clocks were set ahead on all systems at the end of the JWID exercises
to see what would happen.
The first part of the experiment involved setting the system operating clocks close to
midnight on Dec. 31, 1999, and letting them roll over.
Next, clocks were set near to midnight on Feb. 28, 2000. Finally, JWID testers set the
clocks with 2001 dates.
In 10 of the 28 technology demonstrations, either the software expired or the machines
froze, Harvey said.
"One specifically said it did not recognize the leap year, so Feb. 29 didn't exist
in the year 2000," he said. "Even so, the system continued to pass data.
"One GCCS 2.2 system crashed when it tried to cross over to the year 2000, and
when it was rebooted all the user accounts were gone."
Another GCCS 2.2 site also had a crash, but the test team was able to recover the user
accounts when the system came back up, he said.
GCCS is a comprehensive, interoperable system deployed at 500 DOD sites worldwide. DOD
uses it to generate a common operational picture of the battlefield for planning,
executing and managing military operations. It replaced the Worldwide Military Command and
Control System in August 1996.
A JWID '97 assessment team, headed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff's Command, Control,
Communications and Computer Systems Directorate, met last week in Norfolk, Va., to discuss
the draft report. DOD plans to issue a final report by month's end and post it on the Web.
The General Accounting Office and Navy inspector general have requested information on
the JWID '97 year 2000 tests for their own reviews.