Governor calls for investigation into state’s computer outage

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Print this page by Paula C. Squires

Gov. Bob McDonnell has called for an independent third-party investigation into a computer systems failure that crippled nearly a third of the state’s major public agencies.
“I am not pleased that our employees and citizens have experienced this disruption in service,” he said in a statement. “I have directed an operational and performance review of the situation be conducted so that we can determine the proper course of action to best protect the interests of the Commonwealth.  It is crucial we learn what happened and why in order to ensure that such occurrences are prevented in the future.” 

On day six of the outage, 24 of the state’s 27 affected agencies were up and running Tuesday. Still not fully operational was the Department of Motor Vehicles, Department of Taxation and State Board of Elections. State officials could not say when these systems would be up again, although daily updates are being posted at the Virginia Information Technologies Agency website. 

Meanwhile, DMV also continued to post updates on its website to let people know that it could not process driver’s licenses at its 74 offices. 

According to a statement from Virginia Secretary of Technology Jim Duffey, the problems began Aug. 25 with an infrastructure outage caused 13 percent of the commonwealth’s file servers to fail.  That knocked out service to 27 of the state’s 89 agencies. The failure came in the equipment used for data storage, commonly known as a storage area network (SAN).

The storage unit has been repaired, and VITA, its private partner Northrop Grumman and state IT staff are in the process of restoring data. The governor noted in his statement that Northrop Grumman and VITA officials have worked 24 hours a day since the failure occurred. “While the part was replaced promptly, significant data in major state agencies was corrupted.” 

There is talk of making Northrop Grumman pay fines to the state for the service interruptions, the second major outage since the giant defense contractor teamed up with VITA in late 2005 to provide computer services to most state agencies.

A spokesman for Northrop Grumman said the company is not commenting on the governor’s call for an independent investigation. 

After a troubled partnership, McDonnell announced a restructuring of the state’s 10-year, $2.3 billion outsourcing contract with Northrop Grumman in April.  The original contract capped Virginia’s cost for services at $236 million annually. The new agreement maintains the cap but extends the deal for three years to 2019.  It also adds $105 million in new costs for hardware upgrades, data storage, helpdesks and other technology services to be paid during the next nine years. In exchange, Virginia released $15 million in payments to Northrop Grumman that had been withheld as part of a billing dispute. 

In July Northrop Grumman announced that it was moving its corporate headquarters from California to Fairfax County and is purchasing an office building there for the move.

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