Marines' IT set to go for 2000

Marines' IT set to go for 2000

Col. Kevin McHale, director of the Marine Corps' Year 2000 Project Office, says remediation and fielding successes resulted from collaboration.

Service began repairs in 1995; now all systems are ready for the rollover

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

After five years and nearly $100 million, Marine Corps officials in September certified their mission- and non-mission-critical systems year 2000-ready, making the Corps the first Defense Department service to report itself ready for the rollover.

The Marine Corps Materiel Command in Albany, Ga., certified the Digital Terrain Analysis Mapping System, a PC topographic system, as year 2000-ready on Sept. 29 to complete the service's work, said Col. Kevin McHale, director of the Year 2000 Project Office at the Marine Corps headquarters for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence.

Since finding in 1995 that manpower systems were projecting six-year enlistments to end in 1901 rather than 2001, the Marines knew they had a date code problem. They began testing and fielding their systems, with fixes made when necessary, McHale said.

The service spent about $45 million last fiscal year on year 2000 readiness efforts, he said.

Not just them

Although Marine officials are pleased that they met their prediction to Defense Secretary William Cohen that they would be 2000- ready by September 1999, they are not gloating over their success, McHale said.

'We're downplaying the fact that we're the first service to be year 2000-ready,'' McHale said. 'Half of our warfighting systems come from other services,'' so year 2000 readiness was a cooperative effort, he said. 'We're a shopper, not a developer'' of systems, said McHale, who has 28 years of Marine service.

'You would expect that we'd be the first'' to be 2000-ready, since the Marines are the smallest DOD service, McHale said.

Of the 71 mission-critical and 56 non-mission-critical systems the Marines worked on, they retired or replaced 11 systems. Those decisions were based on best business practices, McHale said.

The Corps replaced the Automated Claims System, which tracked damaged household goods in the Marine Exchange retail system, with an Air Force system, he said.

The Marines also replaced the Automated Recruit Management System, which tracked individuals from the time they were recruited until they reported to their first unit, with another PC system, McHale said.

During testing, the Marines found that for every year 2000-related software error, there were five errors caused by other problems, such as hardware that was not 2000-ready and interoperability difficulties, McHale said.

From December 1998 to July, the Marines conducted nine operational year 2000 readiness evaluations of systems, McHale said.

The first test was at Camp Pendleton, Calif., and the final one took place at Twentynine Palms, Calif. 'We [tested] the operational thread of systems across the six warfighting functions of the Marine Corps,'' he said.

Most of the software problems during the operational evaluations were fixable on the spot, McHale said, and the software writer was usually present to write and install a software patch immediately.

The commanders in chief of the five unified commands organized much of the testing, he said.

With their testing, remediating and fielding effort complete, the Marines are spending the rest of 1999 revising their year 2000 contingency plans and preparing for calls from civilian authorities in the United States and abroad to offer support in case of year 2000-related civil disturbances.

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