Two systems won't be ready by New Year's, Defense says

Two systems won't be ready by New Year's, Defense says

But with 99 percent of its systems complete, DOD is prepared for business as usual, official reports

By Bill Murray
GCN Staff

Two mission-critical systems will not be year 2000-ready by the new year, but the Defense Department will carry out its mission as usual on Jan. 1, an Office of the Secretary of Defense official said.

More than 2,000 mission-critical systems''everything we need to fight and defend the country''have been remediated and fielded through a $3.3 billion effort, said Bill Curtis, OSD's principal director for year 2000.

As of early this month, only a handful of mission-critical systems had not been fully fielded, he said.

'We're 99 percent complete on both mission-critical and non-mission-critical' systems, Curtis said.

Besides working with host nations on contingency plans to ensure that DOD installations outside the United States will receive electricity, telephone service and water on Jan. 1, U.S. Space Command officials are hosting their Russian counterparts in Colorado Springs, Colo., to monitor nuclear systems during the year 2000 rollover.

'We're very sure' there won't be any year 2000 problems with the nuclear systems, Curtis said.

Two classified systems for managing equipment and setting schedules will not meet the deadline, but DOD officials have laid out contingency plans for them, Curtis said.

'They won't need to use them for another three to six months' after January, which gives officials added time to remediate and field repaired code, he said.

The Microsoft Visual FoxPro database that DOD officials are using to track readiness has become more prominent because the fiscal year 2000 DOD authorization bill stipulates that funds for certain information systems can be cut off if they are not registered in the database by March 31, Curtis said.

'It's the best inventory that I know about. We would like to keep it going. In case we have a cyberattack, [it could help us] find out what's what,' he said.

Housed at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, the FoxPro database includes system names, locations and personnel identification, projected year 2000 remediation and fielding dates, testing requirements, certification levels, interface data and other information, Curtis said. 'It's not that big compared to manpower and budget databases. There was a big need for security. It has a fine firewall.'

Forty-two DOD agencies upload data to the database. They use the Non-Classified IP Router Network to submit remediation status information using the General Accounting Office-approved five-step year 2000 testing, remediation and fielding process, Curtis said.

The agencies use the Secret IP Router Network to provide testing data to the FoxPro database, he said. 'If we had an inventory like that [when we started year 2000 work], we would have been far ahead,' Curtis said.

Although some critics fault DOD officials for their slow start in year 2000 preparations, Curtis said officials last year expended an 'enormous effort to identify interfaces.' Many mission-critical systems have interfaces with 10 or more systems, so interface data is a 'big Y2K problem,' Curtis said.

Curtis credited the 122 end-to-end systems tests DOD officials conducted with helping the services become year 2000-ready. In addition to 35 commander-in-chief operation evaluations, DOD officials conducted 31 functional tests in finance, logistics, medical and personnel systems, and 56 service tests.

The early code scanning tools that DOD officials used were weak, Curtis said. Many officials are using two or three code tools to ensure they double-check the work of a primary tool, he said.

Multlingual'code

DOD mission-critical systems code is written in Ada, Assembly language, C, Cobol, Fortran, Oracle and other languages, he said. 'If there's a programming language, it's in DOD.'

Curtis cautioned agencies that are using windowing techniques not to rest on their laurels. Using a windowing technique, a system automatically puts '20' in front of certain ranges of numbers and '19' in front of other ranges, so interfaces don't have to be changed from two digits to four, he said.

For example, in a database tracking personnel age, if the last two digits are 25-99, the system would be programmed to interpret those years as 1925-1999, he said. When the last two years are 00-24, the system would interpret that as 2000-2024.

'They need to work out a plan for going from two- to four-digit codes,' Curtis said. 'The problem won't go away. They will eventually run into problems in 25 to 50 years.' '

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