GAO: DOD system puts soldiers at risk

The Defense Department computer system that helps supply Army troops with everything from M-16s to beans is far behind in fixing its computers to be Year 2000-compliant which could cause "injury or death " according to the General Accounting Office.

The Logistics Systems Support Center (LSSC) is not "well positioned" to complete software fixes so that computers can correctly process Year 2000 dates making it "extremely difficult to efficiently and effectively equip and sustain the Army's forces around the world " GAO concluded in a report made available last week.

For example computer systems may identify weapons ordered on or after Jan. 1 2000 as 99-year-old excess inventory and may order the weapons to be discarded because the computers will process a year ending in "00" as the year 1900.

"Such an occurrence could severely impair overall military readiness [because] the necessary items would not be available for the soldier in the field " GAO noted. "More importantly soldiers and military civilians may not be able to properly maintain or replace weapon systems components which could result in injury or death."

If it is not fixed GAO reported the system will "significantly impair the army's ability to order manage sell and account for commodities such as ammunition communications and electronics." The report also stated that the Commodity Command Standard System (CCSS) a standard automated wholesale logistics system that the LSSC relies on to support the Army Materiel Command and other army and DOD organizations is heavily date dependent and because of its connections with other logistics systems failure to correct the Year 2000 problem could "impair the Army's ability to track and manage major-end items such as aircraft missiles and tanks as well as the many thousands of repair parts that support them."

The CCSS has one of the world's largest integrated business systems and comprises 561 separate subsystems that contain 10.2 million lines of program code in about 5 000 pro grams according to GAO.

While emphasizing that DOD has concurred with GAO's recommendations LSSC director Mike Whitelaw said the GAO report is "a bit of an exaggeration and there's a lot of hype." He added that LSSC has completed assessing computers and has bought software tools and products to fix the software.

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