Agencies get help testing code

Agencies rushing to fix year 2000 date code problems will increasingly rely on
independent validation and verification to ensure systems are fixed, experts said.

Many agencies realize that it is impossible to completely test systems for year 2000
readiness, said Robert Deller, president of Market Access International Inc. of Chevy
Chase, Md.

The complexity of most systems “makes it almost impossible to do thorough,
complete testing,” said Kevin Coyne, senior vice president and chief technology
officer for Information Analysis Inc. of Fairfax, Va.

Year 2000 testing is more detailed than independent verification and validation, which
generally consists of audits of fixed systems, officials said.

The General Accounting Office has long touted IV&V as a way for agencies to ensure
year 2000 readiness and to accurately gauge governmentwide progress.

The Office of Management and Budget’s year 2000 assessments are predominantly
based on agency reports that have not been consistently verified or independently
reviewed, Joel C. Willemssen, director of civil agencies information systems for
GAO’s Accounting and Information Management Division, told a congressional panel last
month. In some instances, agencies have reported their systems fixed but realized later
that they were not.

IV&V is tantamount to getting a second opinion from a doctor, said Otto Guenther, a
former Army chief information officer who is now a vice president and director of business
development at Computer Associates International Inc.

“You need to be doing IV&V. You need a second opinion,” Guenther said.
“You need to take a totally independent look to make sure what you’ve done has
been done right.”

The amount of verified information varies within agencies, Guenther said during a
Computer Associates breakfast forum in Washington. “The accuracy of the reporting and
the consistency of remediation is all over the map,” he said. “That’s of
great concern.”

To be effective, verification work needs to be independent and ongoing, officials
suggested. “Most people think you IV&V after you fix,” Guenther said.
“That’s probably wrong.”

CIOs also need to know how the date code is being repaired and whether standards are
being followed by the many year 2000 programmers, he said.

IV&V efforts will not certify a system is ready, Coyne said. “That’s
something that is beyond . . . the control of an independent company,” he said.

Agencies want to improve cooperation with the independent groups so they can improve
their year 2000 efforts. John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President’s Council on
Year 2000 Conversion, said in a speech last month that many agencies will work with GAO
auditors and inspectors general on year 2000.

Most agencies are working quickly to fix as much as they can, Deller said.

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