A DOD director finds good in date code crisis

VAIL, Colo.--Army officials need a broader perspective on information technology,
speakers said last week at the Small Computer Program's Spring Program Status Review here.


"We, in some cases, are not the right people to be managing PCs" because of
the difficulty of maintaining technical expertise, said Col. Dean R. Ertwine, deputy for
systems acquisition at the Communications-Electronics Command Management Center at Fort
Monmouth, N.J.


Technical managers must look beyond their functional areas to broader concerns such as
cost-cutting and risk management, said Miriam F. Browning, director of information
management in the Office of the Secretary of the Army.


We all need to become champions for year 2000 readiness, she said.


Within 15 years, Browning said, agencies will no longer hire programmers and other
technical personnel but instead will contract out IT tasks.


Supervisors will come from the Defense Leadership Management Program, a six-year effort
to groom civilian employees for senior roles, she said.


The program, which will train up to 300 people per year, will incorporate
graduate-level military education and rotating assignments, Browning said.


"This is a particularly good time to work for a federal agency," she said,
because promising employees will get valuable training in how to think strategically.


An Army center at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., is developing better ways to share and store
data to save staff time, she said. Through a contract with Electronic Data Systems Corp.,
the center has built an intranet and a flow-modeling process to improve knowledge
management.


Despite funding problems, Browning said, the year 2000 crisis has helped Army personnel
think more broadly.


"Y2K is forcing people to speak with each other who haven't spoken before,"
she said. An Army Web site at http://www.army.mil/Y2K-web
has hot links to vendor sites and policy information, she said, and the Army Audit Agency
provides consulting services and readiness assessments.


The date code crisis even has an upside, she added. It gives program executive
officers, program managers and systems developers the chance to eliminate unnecessary
systems.


"I'm not worried" about the Defense Department's 2000 readiness, Browning
said. She professed more concern about DOD systems that exchange data with civilian
systems, such as Interior Department systems that control dams and locks, Federal
Emergency Management Agency disaster relief systems and Federal Aviation Administration
air traffic systems.


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