The Air Force vows to be 2000-ready, on time

MONTGOMERY, Ala.—By ensuring that systems are not disrupted in January 2000, the
Air Force will disappoint doomsayers who predict catastrophic consequences for the
service, said Lt. Gen. William Donahue, director of communications and information.

“Your Air Force is going to fly, and we’re going to be mission-ready,”
Donahue said last week at the Air Force Information Technology Conference. “It’s
going to be a non-event.”

The technical challenges behind the year 2000 problem are no big deal, Donahue said.
Nevertheless, the service has made fixing the year 2000 problem its top priority, he said.

The Air Force will spend $625 million to fix faulty code—more than either the Army
or the Navy—with the bulk of the funds, $438 million, spent this year.

“The worst possible scenario is not the most likely,” Donahue said.
“Don’t believe that. We’re going to be able to handle this thing.”

Glitches caused by error-prone date code potentially could disrupt service missions
and, therefore, the year 2000 is a mission continuity issue, he said.

“The systems that need to be fixed will be fixed,” Donahue said. “But
we’re not going to fix everything. We will miss some things.”

Although the service was supposed to finish its renovation phase by June 30, the Air
Force still has 54 mission-critical systems in renovation, Donahue said. Of those 54, 31
will not be through testing by the administration’s January deadline, he said.

The Air Force, perhaps the most technologically dependent service, is particularly
vulnerable to date code errors. The service relies heavily on computers to manage
everything from supply and personnel to critical combat and air traffic control systems.

Donahue said that every commander needs to do two things: Figure out what can cause a
mission failure, and assess the risk of potential service disruptions. The Air Force will
hold commanders responsible for systems under their purview, he said.

The Air Force last month reported to the Office of Management and Budget that so far it
has implemented none of its 455 mission-critical systems.

“We’re not doing as good as we ought to be doing,” Donahue said.

Donahue predicted, however, that all the service’s mission-critical systems will
be ready by 2000.

Nevertheless, the service is putting together contingency plans in the event that some
mission-critical systems are not ready in time, he said.

Maintaining operations is essential, Donahue said. Besides their own information
systems, commanders must ensure that transportation, power, water, sewer and other systems
that their bases depend on for support services from commercial suppliers will be
operational after 2000, he said.

The Air Force is also repairing more than 1,000 non-mission-critical systems, which
Donahue said is a waste of time and money.

“If they’re not year 2000-ready yet, my view is kill them,” he said.
“If they’re not important enough to fix, they’re not important enough to
have at all. Some of them are really a bunch of trash.”

Systems important to the overall Air Force mission will get the necessary fixes, he
said, and nonessential systems will see their funding dry up.   


  • business meeting (Monkey Business Images/

    Civic tech volunteers help states with legacy systems

    As COVID-19 exposed vulnerabilities in state and local government IT systems, the newly formed U.S. Digital Response stepped in to help. Its successes offer insight into existing barriers and the future of the civic tech movement.

  • data analytics (

    More visible data helps drive DOD decision-making

    CDOs in the Defense Department are opening up their data to take advantage of artificial intelligence and machine learning tools that help surface insights and improve decision-making.

Stay Connected