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1998-06-12 17:20:17


A Simple Way to Improve Statistics: Lie



The great lure of the lie has never been greater. Who can be sure that some technician is lying, or in some way misrepresenting the situation? Only another technician. But technicians are in short supply. There aren't enough of them to make the fixes, let alone check on each other.

Once in a while, a liar gets caught, but not often.

The Department of Defense is suffering from a bad case of "Yes, sir. It's been done, sir!"

Out of 430 systems declared compliant, 265 -- well, maybe 338 -- had not been declared compliant.

What do you call a lie by 265 -- make that 338 -- people under your jurisdiction? Unintentional. "It was just one of those things. Just one of those crazy things."

But let me hasten to assure you that nuclear bomb-carrying planes will not fall from the sky on January 1, 2000. I wanted you to know that.

This is from the WASHINGTON POST (June 12).

* * * * * * * * *

An investigation by the Defense Department's inspector general found that computer system managers turned in reports listing critical technology systems as ready to accurately process and calculate dates in the next century even though the systems had not received such certification.

The prospect of incorrect information in the Year 2000, or Y2K, progress reports has raised concerns about the integrity of the process used by top Pentagon and White House officials to track computer repairs and to make contingency plans for any possible technology crisis on Jan. 1, 2000.

"Senior DOD management cannot afford to make Y2K program decisions based on highly inaccurate information," the office of the inspector general concluded in its report on the matter. "If DOD does not take the action that it needs to obtain accurate information as to the status of its Y2K efforts, we believe that serious Y2K failures may occur in DOD mission-critical information technology systems." . . .

William A. Curtis, a retired Army combat officer recruited by the Pentagon 60 days ago to shape up its Year 2000 computer repair program, did not dispute the findings.

"We have got to have the most accurate data . . . and not be shooting the messenger," Curtis told Horn.

Curtis and Sally Brown, a Defense official involved in Y2K compliance efforts, said they did not believe system managers were trying to intentionally mislead superiors on Y2K progress. . . .

At the Defense Department, Year 2000 policies say that computer users cannot assume a system will successfully operate in the next century until it has been certified by a system manager. A computer system is not certified until the system manager signs a Y2K compliance checklist, the inspector general's report said.

But when the office of the inspector general sampled 430 computer systems that the Pentagon had reported as Year 2000 compliant in November 1997, it found that defense officials could not provide documents to show they had followed proper procedures. Using a statistical model, the office concluded "that between 265 and 338 systems were not certified," although the systems had been reported to senior management as certified. . . .

In the Pentagon's case, the report from the office of the inspector general said the department's Year 2000 management plan did not clearly describe the certification process or the specific requirements for systems managers.


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