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1999 is "Year of Testing" Y2K Solutions, Hamre Says

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 9, 1999 – Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre told lawmakers that 1999 is "the year of testing" and that DoD has made excellent progress in ensuring the department is Year 2000 compliant.

Hamre testified before the House Government Reform Committee March 2. He forecasted that 93 percent of DoD's computer systems would be Y2K compliant by March 31, the Office of Management and Budget deadline.

He said computer systems involved with nuclear weapon command and control are already compliant. "I would like to take this opportunity to state unequivocally that our nuclear command and control system has been thoroughly tested and has performed superbly," he said. "We will continue to test and evaluate our systems involved with this most important function as our highest priority."

Hamre said the Y2K problem, or millennium bug as it is also known, is particularly critical to DoD because of the department's reliance on computers. "These are not simply weapon systems, the category best-prepared for the Year 2000, but command and control systems, satellite systems, the Global Positioning System, highly specialized inventory management and transportation management systems, medical equipment and important systems for payment and personnel records."

DoD has about 9,900 computer systems with about 2,300 deemed mission critical. "DoD also operates over 600 military bases, which are like small towns, where the infrastructure is also vulnerable to Year 2000 problems," Hamre said.

DoD assigned responsibility for fixing Y2K problems to the defense leaders and warfighting commands. This high-level oversight has given added impetus to the program, he said.

While 7 percent of DoD computers will not be compliant by the March 31 deadline, DoD will continue working to make them compliant by the end of the year. He said those systems are receiving an "exceptional measure of management focus and oversight."

Hamre is briefed each month on systems that will miss the deadline. "Systems that continue to slip may have development and fielding efforts frozen, particularly if [they] are intended to replace an already compliant system," he said.

The focus of effort this year will be on complex, real-world, end-to-end testing of DoD business functions and warfighter missions, Hamre said.

"During 1999 we will test everything from paying service members to exercising vital command and control capabilities from 'sensor to shooter,'" he said. These tests include the "skein" of systems that must operate together to perform a mission or function. He called the Y2K testing the largest and most comprehensive evaluation plan in DoD history.

Hamre said testing in this manner is as complex as going to war. It involves all areas of DoD, and, he said, the testing would increase in scope and complexity as the year goes on.

All regional commander in chief exercises conducted this year will include Y2K play. "We are using the department's warfighters, the commanders in chief, to evaluate operational readiness to conduct operations unaffected by the Y2K problem," Hamre said. The department has scheduled 31 commander in chief operational evaluations -- six more than required by the 1999 Defense Authorization Act.

The DoD inspector general will oversee the tests and the General Accounting Office and the Office of Management and Budget will review the results. Hamre said DoD has already conducted three tests, and he called such evaluations "essential to providing the additional assurance that our systems will remain operational over the millennium date change."

Yet even with all these tests, there will probably be Y2K impacts on DoD. Hamre said the department is working on contingency plans in case Y2K problems crop up. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the regional commanders in chief are working through the Universal Joint Task List to ensure operations can continue if Y2K problems occur and they are putting workarounds in place that will allow commanders to accomplish their missions.

Finally, DoD is working with other U.S. government agencies. "DoD must be able to assure operational readiness to react to challenges to U.S. national security while at the same time assisting the nation in such a fashion as may be necessary to negate disruptions to the domestic infrastructure," Hamre said.

DoD is sponsoring Exercise Positive Response Y2K, a series of command post exercises that will run through September. The premise of the exercises is how DoD and the country react when multiple Y2K-related failures occur.

"The concept is to remove mission-critical systems and capabilities from play during the conduct of a robust warfighting scenario and then assess DoD's ability to respond with timely decisions," Hamre said. "In addition, the exercises assess the ability of the services to execute operational contingency plans and to mitigate problems associated with Y2K."

Other Y2K DoD actions include:

  • Sharing DoD's expertise with other federal agencies. For example, DoD Health Affairs has already done Y2K testing on biomedical equipment. Officials are sharing test results with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the National Institutes of Health, Indian Health Service and others.
  • The National Guard will conduct a communications test under Y2K conditions. Success is defined as the Guard being able to talk to all 54 states, territories and the District of Columbia simultaneously.
  • There are no federal plans to call up the National Guard or other reserve components.
  • DoD is working closely with the ministries of defense in Great Britain, Canada and Mexico. The United States is also working on the Y2K problem within NATO and with Pacific Rim allies.
  • DoD is working with Russia on Y2K threat reduction plans.
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