GAO to Navy: Get control of your Year 2000 efforts

In the latest of a string of reports criticizing the Defense Department's efforts to address its Year 2000 problems, the General Accounting Office took aim at the Navy with a searing indictment of the service's Year 2000 management and oversight controls.

In a report released last week, "Defense Computers: Year 2000 Computer Problems Put Navy Operations at Risk," GAO said the Navy lacks a comprehensive inventory of systems that need Year 2000 fixes, has not monitored the progress of subordinate organizations or developed a departmentwide testing strategy and is not developing contingency plans for its mission-critical systems.

"The Navy lacks key management and oversight controls to enforce good management practices, direct resources and establish a complete picture of its progress in remediating systems," the report said. The lack of complete and reliable information on the number of systems needing Year 2000 fixes increases the risk that Year 2000 glitches will spread from one organization's system to that of another organization, and those glitches may severely degrade the Navy's readiness, according to GAO.

In the report, Navy officials in the chief information officer's office admitted they were behind schedule, but they blamed the delay on the inordinate amount of time spent briefing top officials from the Navy, DOD and the Office of Management and Budget. The report also cited the lack of a full-time staff dedicated to managing Year 2000 efforts throughout the Navy.

Navy officials could not be reached for comment.

But in an official Navywide message dated the day before GAO delivered its report to the Navy, Vice Adm. Arthur K. Cebrowski, director of space, information warfare, command and control (N-6) for the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, reasserted the Navy's decentralized Year 2000 management approach by saying, "Fixing the Y2K problem is a top priority that requires a coordinated Navywide effort. There is no single Navy organization capable of tackling Y2K by itself."

In the Navy's official response to the report, Ann Miller, the Navy's CIO, said DOD's classification of the database that is used to track Year 2000 and other system status information throughout the department, left the Navy without a Year 2000 database and forced it to develop its own. The Navy has since established a separate Year 2000 database and is actively tracking status and cost information, according to Miller.

The Navy also doubled the number from five to 10 full-time employees dedicated to the Year 2000 effort and is developing contingency and testing plans for all its critical systems, Miller said.

Anthony Valletta, vice president of SRA Federal Systems and former acting assistant secretary of Defense for command, control, communications and intelligence (ASD/C3I), said the GAO report is "partly right" but that "the Navy is going to be the hardest service to take care of" because many of its ships are always at sea.

Valletta said the Navy never had good accountability of its systems or their status during his tenure as ASD/C3I, but he would challenge any major corporation or government organization today to tell him where all their assets are at any given time. However, the Navy also suffered from a late start on the Year 2000 problem and had to deal with turnover in the CIO ranks, he said.

"The Navy was always my biggest concern," Valletta said. "We're going to have to take the fixes out to the fleet."

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