Litton/PRC undertakes Y2K verification work at USPS

Litton/PRC Inc. recently started Year 2000 independent verification and validation work for the U.S. Postal Service, under a $17 million task order awarded by the agency through an existing services contract.

The task order was awarded under USPS' Information Systems Support Services (ISSS) contract, which is an estimated $100 million indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract awarded to Litton/PRC late last year. The ISSS contract provides USPS with technical support staffing and services in areas including systems analysis, business process re-engineering, systems integration, local-area networks and telecommunications.

Under the new task order, Litton/PRC will step in after system renovation and certification has been completed by other vendors or the agency and will validate that the work was successful.

"This is a safety net we put out for the Postal Service remediation effort," said Jim Golden, USPS' Year 2000 initiative executive program manager.

In its review, Litton/PRC looks at Year 2000 test data and in some cases runs additional testing, Golden said. Other vendors, such as SRA International Inc. and Unisys Corp., also have been brought in to do some verification work while the systems are undergoing code fixes because the effort is so large.

"After the company or the Postal Service has completed the steps to make the program Year 2000 compliant, we verify to ensure the Year 2000 portion is met," said Harry Koerber, vice president and general manager of postal market information services at Litton/PRC. "We're at the tail end of the process, so we're doing it as quickly as the systems are compliant."

USPS has categorized more than 150 business applications as "severe and critical," Golden said. To date, about two-thirds have been remediated— meaning the code has been fixed— and the remaining third, with the exception of a handful of applications, will be completed by the first of next year.

Litton/PRC works with an extensive checklist that includes both legacy systems and client/server based systems, Koerber said. Its first step is to see what documentation is available and send teams to different sites. Then, using that material, Litton/PRC checks the code using automated tools. "The difficulty is going through the code," Koerber said. The tools PRC uses identify 85 percent to 90 percent of any date code associated with logic and programming, while about 10 percent to 15 percent must be checked manually.

Unlike typical verification and validation work, Year 2000 verification and validation work focuses on the dates and programming linked to those dates rather than the functional and performance requirements of the software, Koerber said.

Although validation and verification are necessary steps that will help agencies catch problems that could crop up in a real-world setting, there are still some unknowns.

The work is "a way to say we've done our job," said Andrew Bochman, director of business development at Aberdeen Group. "That doesn't mean nothing will go wrong. There are many variables and unknowns with Year 2000. Independent validation and verification offers another level of confidence, but not certainty."

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