by Paula C. Squires
Virginia is hiring an outside vendor to investigate a weeklong computer crash that disabled 26 state agencies.
Northrop Grumman has agreed to pay $250,000 for the costs of the independent investigation. The company provides computer services to 89 agencies in a public/private arrangement with the Virginia Information Technologies Agency.
During the outage, political leaders and editorial pages across Virginia questioned why the state wasn’t getting a quicker response to the worst computer failure since the government hired Northrop Grumman in 2005, especially since better customer service was one of the benchmarks outlined in a revised contract announced in April.
In a statement, Northrop Grumman said it “deeply regrets the disruption and inconvenience this has caused state agencies and Virginia citizens.”
To process a backlog of 35,000 to 45,000 license renewals that could not be handled during the disruption, many Department of Motor Vehicles centers were open over Labor Day weekend.
What isn’t clear yet — and will be considered by the review — is whether Northrop Grumman will have to pick up the tab for the lost time and productivity of state workers and agencies. Besides DMV, other affected agencies included the State Department of Taxation, which couldn’t process payments, and the State Board of Elections.
Sam Nixon, Virginia’s chief information officer, already has said that Northrop Grumman will be charged $100,000 in fines for the latest service problems.
Northrop Grumman is one of Virginia’s most high-profile corporate citizens. The country’s second largest defense contractor, it employs 40,000 workers in the Washington region, operates a huge shipyard in Newport News — that city’s largest private employer — and recently announced the move of its corporate headquarters from Los Angeles to Fairfax County.
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