Agency IT chiefs exhale as systems sail into 2000

Agency IT chiefs exhale as systems sail into 2000

Most date-code glitches were not showstoppers, so government managers prepare to forge ahead

The world last week emerged from piles of confetti, canned goods and batteries into 2000. People found that computers mostly still worked, electricity and water flowed and governments still governed.

Still, year 2000 experts are having to explain that the date-code rollover really did have the potential to wreak havoc but that exhaustive global efforts by government and industry leaders had saved the day (see story, Page 1).

But the rollover wasn't totally problem-free. As the year began, workers detected and dealt with numerous, although not show-stopping, systems failures. Problems ranged from a malfunctioning classified Defense Department intelligence satellite system to Postal Service computers that printed retail receipts with date errors.

At the end of Jan. 3, the first business day of 2000, John A. Koskinen predicted minor glitches would continue to trickle in, albeit with little impact on the U.S. economy or delivery of government services.

'We can safely say that what was referred to as the Y2K bug has been squashed with regard to the key infrastructure of the United States,' said Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion.

The Year 2000 Conversion Information Coordination Center will maintain a 30-member staff through the end of the month and will monitor systems during the leap year day of Feb. 29, Koskinen said.

DOD will also monitor systems that day. But Col. Kevin McHale, project officer for the Marine Corps' year 2000 conversion, predicted that late February will be less eventful than the calendar year rollover.

The Federal Aviation Administration weathered some 2000-related snafus, but none grounded commissioner Jane Garvey.

As American Airlines Flight 1099 streaked over Tennessee at midnight Greenwich Mean Time (7 p.m. EST) on Dec. 31, Garvey had a conference call with Koskinen and Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater.

Koskinen was aboard a Delta Air Lines shuttle from Washington to New York, and Slater was at FAA's command center in Herndon, Va.

FAA's Garvey celebrated New Year's Eve on a commercial flight.

High fliers

Garvey read the letter she later faxed to President Clinton in which she quoted Orville Wright's telegram following the first flight in 1903: 'Success. Stop. Inform press. Stop.'

Sitting with Garvey was Ray Long, FAA's director of operational support and formerly the agency's year 2000 czar. 'We knew for 21/2 years we could do it,' he said.

At the Navy's Pacific Fleet headquarters in Hawaii, Lt. Cmdr. Peter Hildreth, year 2000 coordinator, said the service's systems had no major problems.

An official on the USS Topeka echoed that assessment. The crew of the Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine in the Pacific Ocean greeted the year under a cloudless sky.

Cmdr. Mark Patton told GCN the Topeka positioned itself precisely at the intersection of the equator and the international date line at midnight before surfacing in the 85-degree evening.

Speaking via the Iridium satellite phone system, Patton quipped that sailors on the port side of the ship were in 1999 while those on the starboard were in 2000, and that those at the bow were in the Southern Hemisphere while those in the stern in the Northern.

'The entire ship is Y2K-compliant, and we're here to validate that,' Patton said.

In space, the new year slipped in with relatively little upheaval. NASA reported via its Web site that all systems tied to Greenwich Mean Time appeared to have made it through the date change.

Information technology industry workers joined their federal counterparts for night watch duty. At the CACI International Inc. network control center in Chantilly, Va., officials expressed relief when large networks the company operates for federal agencies appeared to roll into 2000 without a hitch.

'I'm so glad it's been a boring day,' senior manager Ralph Steen said.

From its control center, CACI monitors FAA's Agency Data Telecommunications Network 2000. ADTN 2000 is a worldwide virtual private network for video and data that carries 6T of data per month over its IP routed and X.25 packet-switched lines.

GAO's Willemssen says Y2K provided a lesson in management.

CACI also operates the Coast Guard's Data Network Plus and the Air Force's global seismic detection network.

State and local government emergency operations centers also had an uneventful rollover.

'It paid off'all the money spent,' West Virginia emergency services operations director Tom Burns said early New Year's Day.

Tennessee asked end users to keep an eye out for date-related glitches in applications, chief information officer Bradley Dugger said. Agencies found a few problems but they were quickly fixed, he said.

Tempering celebration with caution, Joel C. Willemssen, director of civil agencies information systems at the General Accounting Office, said his staff would stay on top of the 2000 issue through February.

'Among the most important things that happened in Y2K that I hope we can carry through to other projects is top management involvement,' Willemssen said.

GCN staff members Shruti Dat', Patricia Daukantas, Christopher J. Dorobek, Claire House, Susan M. Menke, Bill Murray, Thomas R. Temin and Trudy Walsh contributed to this report.

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