Report slams DOD's Y2K efforts

Describing the Pentagon's Year 2000 problems as a national security risk, a Defense Science Board (DSB) task force recommended the Defense Department appoint a full-time executive with "requisite authority and staff" to oversee DOD's Year 2000 fix, according to an interim report obtained by Federal Computer Week.

The task force also called for the Office of the Secretary of Defense to give its Year 2000 czar an "escape valve" fund to address "certain special needs," and to establish financial incentives for Year 2000 program managers.

A congressional source familiar with DOD's Year 2000 efforts said the interim report implies that DOD officials know they may not be able to complete their Year 2000 work. "I think the general sense is that DOD is preparing not to meet the Year 2000 deadline, and the agency is trying to come up with contingency plans, which they will need in the event of system failures," the source said. "It frightens me to think that once they realize that they have put contingency plans in place, they may slow down conversion work altogether."

The report, circulated at the Pentagon last month, stressed that the compressed time frame for completing Year 2000 conversion efforts may lead to system bugs and other problems that leave DOD systems vulnerable to information warfare attacks, which according to the report, may be viewed "as an excellent example of self-inflicted information warfare."

According to DOD spokeswoman Cheryl Irwin, although the report is not final, DOD generally agrees, and "the department is already acting on some of the DSB's findings," she said.

Irwin said as part of the Defense Reform Initiative unveiled last year, the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence is being reorganized, and the initiative proposed increased emphasis on Year 2000 issues and contingency planning.

The draft report notes that "because much of the [Year 2000] work will include patches," systems may be exposed to outside interference.

"DOD should assume that hackers will try to cause mischief, including exposing and widely disseminating [Year 2000] vulnerabilities," the interim report stated. "Domestic and international perceptions also are important. Perceived vulnerabilities at a critical time period, even if not real, can lead to serious difficulties for the [United States]."

The DSB task force recommended the department prioritize its 3,143 mission-critical systems and agreed with the agency's current efforts to reduce that number by some 30 percent.

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