DOD puts vast nets to Y2K test
- By Bob Brewin, Dan Verton, Doug Brown
- Jul 11, 1999
The Defense Department this week will complete what it described as "the largest simultaneous Year 2000 test of information systems in the world" as part of a series of end-to-end tests of how the Pentagon's mission-critical systems will operate after Dec. 31.
The current series of tests focuses on the logistics information systems—those systems that help move military forces and equipment around the world—without which today's Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps would quickly grind to a halt.
Zach Goldstein, director of logistics systems modernization in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, said the logistics systems test, under way at the DOD Logistics Y2K Operations Center in Fairfax, Va., focuses on just 44 of the 1,000 DOD logistics systems.
"We identified those information flows so essential to supporting military operations and so hyper-dependent on automation that not being able to get the information within 72 hours of needing it impacts your mission," Goldstein said.
Goldstein said DOD quickly zeroed in on systems that support items such as repair parts and electronic components "because if you send a tank engine to an aircraft unit, you have a real problem."
The logistics systems involved in the test passed what Goldstein considers one of the most critical parts of the evaluation, the end-of-year date rollover, with no flaws or bugs.
More important, Goldstein said, DOD tested how the system worked in a real-world environment so that it could check the interaction of a variety of logistics systems spread across the services and the Defense Logistics Agency. While the ability to order spare parts or consumables is essential, Goldstein said, bad code generating bad data is disastrous.
This week's tests—including a July 13 demonstration for John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, and the press—will look at other sensitive dates, such as Feb. 29.
When it comes to DOD logistics, users exist within a joint world, with users and logistics systems scouring databases throughout the services to quickly locate a needed part. This week's tests, Goldstein said, are meant to mimic that environment.
Carla von Bernewitz, the chief information officer of the DLA, said the current Phase Two Leap Year test, which runs through Wednesday, is the most important test, helping DLA to determine if "we can really pass data between systems and organizations." Phase Three, scheduled for later this year, will focus on fixing systems that failed during Phase Two testing and also will allow other systems that were not ready for testing during Phase Two to be tested.
DLA, which von Bernewitz called a "linchpin" organization for the test, put 11 of its 34 mission-critical logistics systems through the test with no problems discovered. This week, DLA will complete Leap Year testing on the depot-level Standard Distribution System, the last of the 11 mission-critical systems to be tested.
Given the complexity and the scope of the test, the results "have been stunning," von Bernewitz said. "I don't think there is any functional area in DOD that has more interfaces than the logistics community."
DLA also is conducting tests with many of its commercial trading partners and commercial transportation carriers, such as Federal Express. To date, DLA has completed roughly one-half of the 57 commercial vendor interface tests scheduled for completion by the end of August, von Bernewitz said.
The Navy committed an array of ships and shore installations to the test, according to Tom Tomcich, an analyst with the Navy's logistics technology branch. Besides the USS Atlanta, ships involved in the logistics tests include the USS Kearsage, a Marine amphibious helicopter carrier; the USS Stout, a guided missile destroyer; the USS Kauffman, a frigate; and the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier.
Shore-side commands supporting the test include the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command's Systems Center, Chesapeake, Va., and the Navy Inventory Control Point, Philadelphia.
Tomcich said the Navy is using real ships' data on shipboard systems maintained in a lab environment. Norfolk, Va. is the primary entry point for test requisition, which runs through systems from point of entry to point of issue, providing requisition status. The test stops before material is pulled so that no material is shipped and customers are not charged. Additionally, a Y2K project code is used to ensure that test data does not get transferred into production systems.
Ron Knecht, senior vice president for corporate development at Science Applications International Corp., said DOD is "doing the right thing.... The right focus is, 'Can we do the function end to end?' [Year 2000 is] not a computer science problem, it's an operational management problem.... The only way you do these things is go do them because there is no precedent."
Nancy Peters, vice president of CACI and chairwoman of the Information Technology Association of America's Year 2000 task force, said, "The selection of an area is the only way to do end-to-end testing. So selecting an area like the supply chain is a good, sane approach."