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Y2K problems could close Defense Dept. chemical plant
January 11, 1999
Web posted at: 5:00 PM EST
by Daniel Verton
(IDG) -- Officials at an Army chemical disposal site for nerve gas and blister agents
have seriously mismanaged Year 2000 fixes to critical computer systems,
raising the possibility that the government will shut down the site at a cost of
$2 million a week, according to a recently released report.
The Defense Department's Inspector General reported that the Army's
project manager for the Johnston Atoll Agent Disposal System did not begin
checking until last summer for Year 2000 bugs in its critical computer
systems. The systems monitor air quality, process data and control code at
Johnston Atoll, which is more than 700 miles southwest of Honolulu, Hawaii,
and consists of four islands. One of the islands, Johnston Island, served as the
military's atmospheric nuclear testing range for more than three decades. The
Army began to destroy its stockpile of chemical weapons in June 1990 and
expects to complete its operations shortly after 2000.
In addition, the program office failed to prepare necessary documentation for
Year 2000 fixes and has yet to develop a contingency plan, a risk
management plan and a system testing plan, according to the DOD IG. The
report also condemned the Army for incorrectly reporting the status of
systems in the required monthly report to DOD.
"The Army faces increased risk that it may not be able to implement
corrections before the turn of the century," resulting perhaps in the "temporary
closure of the Johnston Atoll Disposal System at a weekly cost of $2 million,"
the report concluded.
The Army Program Office for Chemical Demilitarization at Aberdeen Proving
Ground, Md., is responsible for about 90 Automatic Continuous Air
Monitoring systems throughout the facility. A spokesman for the Army's
Chemical Stockpile Disposal Project Office said that although the Army got a
late start on addressing the Year 2000 issue, they now have a schedule to fix
computers and have no plans to shut down the site. However, the spokesman
said the project office will not meet the Office of Management and Budget's
March 31 deadline to have computer systems fixed, tested and operational.
"All of our mission-critical computer systems will be Y2K-compliant before
the turn of the century," the spokesman said.
According to the IG, the Army is only in the initial stages of its Year 2000
planning and still has not determined how to correct the problems with some
of its critical systems.