Defense Computers:

Air Force Needs to Strengthen Year 2000 Oversight

AIMD-98-35: Published: Jan 16, 1998. Publicly Released: Jan 16, 1998.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Air Force's program for solving its year 2000 computer systems problem, focusing on the: (1) status of the Air Force's efforts to oversee its Year 2000 program; and (2) appropriateness of the Air Force's strategy and actions for ensuring that the problem will be successfully addressed.

GAO noted that: (1) as with other military services, the Air Force is taking a decentralized approach to year 2000 correction--that is, it is relying heavily on its components to identify and correct year 2000 problems affecting their own systems; (2) however, in providing oversight for this effort, the Air Force must ensure that all of its systems have been accounted for and that component actions are successful; (3) it must also be well-positioned to make the resource tradeoff decisions that are inevitable in any year 2000 effort and to address conflicts between component approaches toward identifying and correcting interfaces; (4) further, it must be able to provide additional resources, such as testing facilities, that may be necessary to correct and validate systems; (5) the Air Force has taken a number of positive actions toward fulfilling its year 2000 oversight responsibilities; (6) for example, it is taking inventory of its systems and prioritizing them for conversion or replacement, and it has issued extensive guidance on dealing with the year 2000 problem; (7) it has also established a year 2000 working group comprised of focal points from the components which aims to eliminate duplicative efforts, share resources, and track component progress; (8) at the same time, the Air Force has not yet adequately addressed several critical issues that would ensure that it is well-positioned to deal with the later, and more difficult, phases of year 2000 correction; (9) GAO's review revealed that some components are failing to plan for the testing phase of their year 2000 effort and develop contingency plans; (10) GAO also found that some components are taking conflicting approaches toward determining the actual impact or the program status of their system interfaces; (11) if components and the Air Force do not promptly address and take consistent action on these issues, they may well negate any success they may have in making systems within their control year 2000 compliant; and (12) while the Air Force has enlisted the services of the Air Force Audit Agency to help address some of these concerns, this work needs to be backed by comprehensive and continued Air Force oversight in order to ensure that it can address unforeseen problems and delays in the next, more difficult phases.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should immediately require that the Air Force ensure its cost estimates factor in the actual resources it believes are needed to renovate and implement systems so that it can make informed resource tradeoff decisions and ensure that this estimate is periodically refined throughout the year 2000 program.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force tasked its components with developing realistic cost estimates for Year 2000 systems renovation and implementation, and to periodically refine these estimates. In the August 1999 Defense Year 2000 quarterly report to OMB, the Air Force reported that it will cost about $1.2 billion to complete its Year 2000 program, an increase from the $625 million it estimated in August 1998. The Air Force's $1.2 billion Year 2000 cost estimate has not changed since October 1998.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should ensure that an approach is developed to continuously track how components are going about identifying interfaces, how they plan to correct interfaces, and whether they are instituting memorandums of agreement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force tasked its year 2000 program managers with identifying interfaces and documenting data exchange information in formal agreements (i.e., memorandums of agreement/understanding and interface control documents) and to enter the status of these efforts in the Air Force Year 2000 database. Because the Air Force is still remedying some mission critical systems, the process of identifying and documenting system interfaces is ongoing. As interface agreements are finalized, program managers/owners are to enter them in the Air Force Year 2000 database.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should ensure that components are developing test plans and identifying the need for additional testing resources and design an approach to obtain any needed testing resources that are identified by Air Force components.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force analyzed test resource needs and concluded that the existing mix of in-house and contractor resources were sufficient. Also, the Air Force issued guidance directing its program/system managers to develop test plans for conducting system certification tests, functional end-to-end integration testing, and operational readiness evaluations, and assigned responsibility for ensuring that these test plans are developed to its individual components. In April 1999, the Air Force received $163.8 million in Year 2000 supplemental funds, of which, about $112 million is to be used to complete year 2000 testing. The Air Force does not expect to complete its Year 2000 testing until late 1999, and is tracking test completion dates and cost through its Year 2000 database to determine, on an ongoing basis, whether additional test resources are needed to procure new hardware and software to support testing, to develop additional test plans, and to conduct additional tests of some remediated systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of the Air Force should act to ensure that components have prepared contingency plans for their mission-critical systems.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense: Department of the Air Force

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force revised and expanded its Year 2000 Management Plan to provide better guidance for completing contingency plans, and now requires Year 2000 contingency plans for all mission-critical systems as part of the exit criteria for completing the renovation phase. In August 1999, the Air Force Year 2000 Program Office reported that a system contingency plan had been competed for all of its mission-critical systems.

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