GTSI fixes PC, server shipment for Y2K

Government Technology Services Inc. this month will provide the State Department with software patches to correct thousands of newly purchased PCs and more than a hundred servers that cannot properly process dates beyond 1999.

The products division of BTG Inc., which was purchased this year by GTSI, provided 6,700 PCs and 130 servers under a $128.9 million contract awarded in April 1997. The equipment supports the department's business processes at about 260 consulates and embassies world-wide and assists other agencies, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Treasury Department and the Defense Intelligence Agency, all of which share overseas offices with State.

State stopped the shipment in December when an agency test revealed that the computers' processors would roll back their internal clocks to 1900, rather than forward to 2000, with the turn of the century.

"What that would have meant is that letters going out or e-mail going back and forth would have had the wrong date," said Ronne Rogin, a contracting officer in State's acquisition management office. Rogin also noted that State solicited the services of the General Services Administration to perform an independent test for Year 2000 compliance.

The software will allow the PCs to interpret 21st century dates correctly, avoiding having to replace the processors themselves.

GTSI declined to comment on the procurement.

Although the Year 2000 problem has become a high-profile issue, the federal government has paid too much attention to Year 2000 compliance in its mainframe and large technology systems without giving similar emphasis to its desktop computers, said Chris Jesse, chief information officer of Tangram Enterprise Solutions and author of Teaching Chipmunks to Dance, a Year 2000 guidebook for managing the century date problem.

"Most strategic decisions are made with the use of desktops, not with mainframes," Jesse said. "When a high-ranking federal government official thinks about implementing...business decisions or tracking financial activities or planning policy, all of this is done on a desktop computer."

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