DOD predicts success in preparations for Y2K

The Defense Department this month declared victory in what a top official portrayed as a successful military campaign to ensure that all of DOD's thousands of mission-critical computer systems will not succumb to Year 2000 date-code problems at the turn of the century.

"Year 2000 is a warfighting issue,'' deputy secretary of Defense John Hamre told a press briefing, adding that the Pentagon will "absolutely" have 100 percent of its 2,304 mission-critical systems fixed by the 1999.

The positive report is a significant turnaround for DOD in its battle with the Year 2000 problem. Last November, Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), the chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology who grades federal agencies' progress in fixing Year 2000 problems, gave the Pentagon a D-minus for its Year 2000 progress. The Office of Management and Budget, which reports quarterly on agencies' Year 2000 progress, placed DOD on a list of agencies critically behind in Year 2000 fixes.

Although DOD will miss the Office of Management and Budget's March 31 deadline for having mission-critical systems operational, Hamre said 94 percent of DOD's systems should be fixed by the March deadline.

The four military services, the joint commands and the Defense agencies made such strong progress in fixing their mission-critical systems that Hamre does not "believe we need the software [development] moratorium'' threatened by Secretary of Defense William Cohen last year, when the Pentagon lagged behind other federal agencies in its Year 2000 efforts.

While declaring victory, Hamre conceded that DOD did not quite meet its own internal target of fixing close to 2,000 systems by the end of 1998, with 1,673 Year 2000-compliant at the time of the press briefing Jan. 14. The Pentagon has budgeted $1.9 billion for its Year 2000 program, and Hamre said DOD will need an additional $600 million, primarily for highly complex testing, including end-to-end tests of systems in multiple-ship Navy carrier battle groups.

Despite DOD's upbeat report, Horn said he remains "deeply concerned about the Department of Defense. The department reported that it was making great progress on the Year 2000 problem, despite the D-minus it earned. Most federal departments and independent agencies have responded much too slowly to the problem."

Horn is expected to discuss in more detail DOD's Year 2000 efforts at an upcoming hearing, according to a spokeswoman.

Hamre also said critical infrastructure systems throughout the country "will not have the widespread problems'' predicted by Year 2000 doomsayers. Hamre said DOD, through its management of the National Emergency Communications System, predicted that systems operated by telephone companies would be Year 2000-compliant by Dec. 31. He also expressed similar confidence in the ability of the national power grid to handle the date change.

The Pentagon has stepped up it efforts to ensure that Year 2000 bugs do not accidentally trigger a nuclear missile attack, dispatching a team to Russia this month to work on a "shared early-warning center" designed to prevent such an incident. President Clinton announced plans for the center—which would allow the two countries to pool their resources and expertise to detect missile launches by emergent nuclear states—last September, but Hamre said concerns about the possibility of Year 2000 bugs in nuclear command and control systems "brought a new sense of urgency'' for the center.

The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), which operates the United States' missile early-warning systems, recently completed a successful end-to-end test of its 24 mission-critical systems, according to Army Lt. Col. William Patterson, who works on Year 2000 testing for the Joint Staff. Patterson said that during the test, NORAD rolled its systems clocks forward and successfully tracked 30 simulated missile attacks, including what he described as a "mass'' missile attack. Patterson said the tests proved the ability of linked NORAD systems operating with Year 2000 clocks to pass data in an integrated stream. That data is passed from early-warning radars to the NORAD command post in Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., and to the National Military Command Center at the Pentagon.

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