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1998-02-22 00:27:33


No Way to Fix US Gov't Computers, Warns Computer Specialist



This report on Federal government agencies reveals the crisis the government is facing. The costs keep rising; the clock keeps ticking; and no agency is compliant. No matter what the happy-face, "we'll get it fixed" commentators say, keep this in mind: no government is compliant, from the county to the United Nations. Not one. They are all facing the deadline. They are also all underpaying their programmers.

They are hiring outside firms -- with five-year contracts. That gives you some indication of how seriously they take the deadline.

It's too late to include testing in the repairs, says one analyst.

Incomplete testing. Five years to go. No big problem. That is the litany of the happy-face analysts.

It's never-never land on the Potomac.

This is from COMPUTER RESELLER NEWS (Feb. 23).

* * * * * * *

Earlier this month, President Bill Clinton formed the Year 2000 Conversion Council. This agency, to be headed by former Office of Management and Budget official John Koskinen, will oversee the year 2000 compliance of federal agencies and their coordination with state, local and tribal governments.

"The scope of the problem has finally started to sink in," said Ian Hayes, president of South Hamilton, Mass.-based Clarity Consulting Inc. . . .

"The Department of Defense is increasing its spending estimates practically every week," said Mike Conrad, vice president of EER Systems Inc., a consultant in Seabrook, Md., that recently landed a U.S. Army contract.

The contract is a five-year, $108 million software development deal. A "significant portion" of that contract, slated to begin next month, involves year 2000 compliance, Conrad said.

Given the lateness of the conversion hour, consultants sum up their approach to federal systems rectification in one word:triage. They are focusing their immediate attention on the most critical aspects, with plans to revisit less important areas when they have time.

"There is just no way to fix it all," said Barry Ingram, chief technology officer of the government services group at EDS Corp., Herndon, Va. "[Agencies] are finding they have more programs to fix than they even knew they had." . . .

"At this point, organizations have to concentrate on fixing those mission-critical systems and letting go on others where the damage will be minor," said Ingram. . . .

"The single biggest challenge [for VARs and integrators targeting the federal government] is identifying and coordinating the compliance of all the internal and external interfaces," Williams said.

The computers of dozens of organizations, ranging from private laboratories to state law-enforcement agencies to other departments in the federal government, have links to the DEA, she said.

"All of them must be tracked down and dealt with," said Williams.

In a normal situation, consultants said, a good portion of an integrator's or consultant's compliance project would be spent on testing.

But with the government, "it's already too late to do all the testing required," said Leslie Kao, senior analyst with G2 Research Inc., a Mountain View, Calif.-based research firm.


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