Hamre memo raises bar for DOD Y2K

Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre last week put senior Defense Department officials on notice, assigning specific responsibility for Year 2000 testing and verification and outlining specific tasks that must be completed by Nov. 1.

In a memo dated Aug. 24 and sent to the secretaries and undersecretaries of all the services, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the directors of the Defense agencies, Hamre underscored the importance of the department's Year 2000 efforts.

"The Department of Defense...must be, and be seen to be, fully capable of providing continuity of military operations for all aspects of the department's missions," Hamre wrote. He added that the department "must also test and prove all national security and DOD mission capabilities in light of Y2K."

Hamre issued the memo just two weeks after Secretary of Defense William Cohen released a memo threatening to halt all software development if DOD does not make significant progress in addressing its Year 2000 problems.

A DOD spokeswoman said the Hamre memo further illustrates the high level of attention and importance that DOD is placing on its Year 2000 plans. She said the goal is to make certain that Year 2000 fixes are completed, tested and verified.

Observers said Hamre's memo raises the bar a "notch higher'' than the Cohen memo, released Aug. 7, because Hamre's memo holds top DOD officials accountable for making the Year 2000 effort a management issue, as opposed to limiting the problem to technology gurus.

"There will be people scrambling to meet that deadline,'' said Robert Lieberman, an assistant inspector general for auditing at DOD. "It really does put them in a really difficult challenge.''

Ron Knecht, senior vice president of Science Applications International Corp., agreed. "This shows that the leadership of DOD is stepping up to the plate and taking real action,'' he said. "This is holding top management accountable. It's certainly a major step forward,'' he said.

Both memos are in direct response to DOD's struggle to become Year 2000-compliant. Recently, the Pentagon released a series of Year 2000 reports indicating that it is further behind schedule in fixing computer systems for the millennium than previously reported [FCW, Aug. 24].

In the latest memo, Hamre said he wants plans from top officials detailing their Year 2000 end-to-end testing of defense functional capabilities within certain areas— such as logistics, personnel, health/medical, communications and intelligence— by Nov. 1.

Hamre stated that "each principal staff assistant of the Office of the Secretary of Defense must verify that all functions under his or her purview will continue to be unaffected by Y2K issues.

"Each plan must cover inter-service, interagency and cross-functional aspects related to the interaction of systems supporting the respective area of responsibility,'' Hamre stated in his memo. "Each [public staff assistant] must certify that his or her test plan includes assessments of functional risk, effects of Y2K on continuity of business operations and associated contingency plans.''

Hamre wants top executives— such as the Army chief of staff, the chief of naval operations and the directors of the Defense agencies— to certify that they have tested the information technology and national security system Year 2000 capabilities of their respective component systems in accordance with the DOD Year 2000 management plan.

"Each certification of component systems' capabilities must cite all mission-critical systems that are yet to be validated as Y2K-compliant along with a time line for expected validation of these systems,'' Hamre said.

Finally, Hamre said the senior civilian officials and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense will ensure that plans involving interagency actions or international agreements are prepared in conjunction with the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

Hamre said top-level officials also will be responsible for development and execution of a series of policy-level seminars to refine interaction of Defense and national decision-makers concerning Year 2000.

Lieberman said Hamre's memo was "very appropriate'' and makes "some of the most senior officials in DOD personally accountable.

"This is the first time there's been explicit direction,'' Lieberman said. "This really put the senior people on notice. They are responsible for what goes on in their area. The only way to deal with Y2K is to start at the top of the pyramid.''

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