McDonnell orders independent review of 'unacceptable' computer failure

Contractor Northrop Grumman agrees to pay for commission

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has announced that an independent commission will be formed to review the weeklong computer failure that affected many state agencies.

The contractor, Northrop Grumman Corp., has agreed to pay for the review of the failure, which McDonnell called unacceptable.

As of Thursday, “all impacted state agencies have had their service restored, and the process has moved to the finalization of access to, retention of, and clean-up of data,” he said in a statement released today.

“The administration, together with the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee (JLARC), will commission an independent review of the information system failures and contractor response that has impacted 13 percent of the commonwealth’s executive branch file servers and 26 of 89 applicable executive branch agencies,” McDonnell said.

“I have spoken personally with Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush," he added. "I expressed to him that extended lapses in state computer services was an unacceptable hardship on our citizens and employees."

The governor said he made it clear that he expects “the best around-the-clock recovery efforts possible in order to reclaim and restore all missing files and data."

The governor said he appreciated the company's commitment to a full and comprehensive recovery from this system failure, and its agreement to pay for the reasonable cost of the independent review “that must take place immediately.”

“I look forward to learning exactly how this occurred, how we can prevent such a disruption in the future, and how we can improve responsiveness and data reclamation if future interruptions occur,” he added.

In a separate statement, Northrop said it “deeply regrets the disruption and inconvenience this has caused state agencies and Virginia citizens. Over the last week, we have deployed significant resources and our staff has worked tirelessly in unison with [Virginia Information Technologies Agency] and our partners to thoroughly verify and restore access to data and restore normal operations to the agencies.”

The contractor added that although the disruption to state government has ended, its efforts to examine the factors that contributed to the initial problem and the lengthy restoration of service is just beginning.

“We support Gov. McDonnell’s call for an independent review of the incident, and we will reimburse the commonwealth for the reasonable costs of an assessment as it is an essential and responsible measure that will strengthen our ability to protect against future issues,” the company said.

About the Author

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

Reader Comments

Wed, Sep 8, 2010 Teresa Florida

Hello???? Can anyone say "Disaster Recovery Hot Site"?

Sat, Sep 4, 2010 Jim Aylward

The obvious question is, "who is doing the review?". Also, what was the dollar value of the failure and what resources will NG be willing to allocate to it's repair?

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 Rick VA

Of course NG will be glad to pay for a few bodies to review the failure. The bigger question is - is there a Service Level Agreement (SLA) in place, and what penalties will they pay for the salaries of idling ~100,000 state workers for a week? $100 Million would not be inappropriate!

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 Gorgonzola

The Commonwealth would be well advised to play hard with NG, which is used to mainly pliant government customers who just roll over. Even if the contract has no downtime credits (which would be really ominous, if indeed missing), press for a big penalty in cash money. Also, for the "review," stay away from all federal IT contractors, especially stay away from all FFRDCs (which are hardly free of COI, no matter what they say) and academics alone. Best thing is to hire five independent experts who can work together under one serving as chair. Hire lower level people for dweeb data collection, but no analysis or report preparation. This is not a great big job. The premium is on good ole IT forensics. The study group should have access to any scrap of NG "paper," includeing emails.

Fri, Sep 3, 2010 Virginia

Review should come from a Cyber Security side. This outage is not just and ordinary outage I beleieve its just the beginning of Computer Security that Government needs to ensure funding and communication across the board with all agency for intel on lastest threats.

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