DOD tech goes to state and local agencies

The Defense Department donated or sold hundreds of thousands of computers, medical devices and other electronic equipment to state and local agencies, hospitals and other public institutions that could fail to operate because of Year 2000 problems.

In a report released this week, the Pentagon's inspector general found that many of the 340,000 excess medical devices and 77,900 excess computer systems donated or sold by DOD from Oct. 1, 1998, to March 31, 1999, may not have been Year 2000 compliant and could fail to operate properly after Dec. 31.

"The medical property included devices critical to health and safety, such as anesthesia apparatus, fetal heart monitors and X-ray equipment," the report stated. However, auditors admitted that the list of 340,000 medical devices also included many items that are not deemed critical to public health and safety and do not rely on date-dependent computer microchips.

In one case, the Naval Medical Center in Portsmouth, Va., transferred 9,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service -- the DOD agency responsible for disbursing equipment that is no longer needed -- for sale or donation to other institutions without assessing any of them for potential Year 2000 problems.

In fact, of the 9,000 items cited, 2,000 posed a high or medium health risk, the report stated. According to the IG, plans called for these items to be transferred or sold to the DOD Humanitarian Assistance Program, the Indian Health Service, state and local agencies, and the general public.

In addition to medical devices, the Defense Information Systems Agency and the Defense Logistics Agency sold or donated more than 77,900 pieces of computer equipment to various federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that also may be at risk for Year 2000 failures.

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