Magazine article National Defense

Pentagon Seeks to Boost Public Confidence in Y2K Readiness

Magazine article National Defense

Pentagon Seeks to Boost Public Confidence in Y2K Readiness

Article excerpt

With roughly 90 days until the end of the year, the Pentagon is assuring the public that military operations will continue unaffected by the highly publicized Y2K date change problem predicted to occur at midnight on December 31.

Reporters recently were invited to observe what Zach Goldstein, Defense Department director of logistic systems modernization, claimed was the world's most comprehensive Y2K test. It aimed to prove that the millennium bug would not undermine "the largest electronic commerce enterprise on the face of the earth," he said. The Pentagon has reasons to worry about computer glitches because it conducts $80 billion worth of transactions per year, using 44 computer systems which contain 200 million lines of code spread over 22 different geographic locations. The tests yielded three date recognition errors, which, officials said, were not significant.

The test was conducted under the auspices of the Joint Interoperability and Testing Command at the offices of TRW, a defense contractor in Fairfax, Va .

Secretary of Defense William Cohen has vowed that, by the end of September, "more than 99 percent of the department's mission critical systems will be fixed." That outlook is far more optimistic than 11 months ago when Cohen indicated that the department was "making insufficient progress in its efforts to solve its Y2K computer problems."

One year and roughly $4 billion laterhalf the $8 billion expected to be spent on federal agency Y2K fixes-the Pentagon appears to have achieved the holy grail of every quality-control practitioner.

Some Y2K experts, meanwhile, view such proclamations with skepticism. Steve Davis, president of Davis Logic, LLC in Simpsonville, Md., believes that, given the large number of defense computer systems, testing 44 of them is a reasonable way to locate potential problems. But "I wouldn't sleep well at night knowing that only 44 out of over 2,000 were tested, Davis said. "That's because every system is different, and many of them are probably running on different software."

Another industry official pointed out that the 44 systems tested comprised only 2 percent of the 2,096 mission critical systems that the department operates and included only logistics supply chain systems, not, for example, targeting and early warning systems.

According to a report by the Senate Special Committee, the Pentagon has more than 1.5 million computers, 28,000 automated information systems and 10,000 networks. "Its information systems are linked by thousands of interfaces that exchange data within the Defense Department and across organizational and international lines. …

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