Audit: Contractor, Human Error Caused Va Outage

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - Human error by contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. was to blame for a computer system crash that idled many state government agencies for days in August, according to an external audit completed at Gov. Bob McDonnell's request.

The audit, by technology consulting firm Agilysis and released Tuesday, found that Northrop Grumman had not planned for an event such as the failure of a memory board, aggravating the failure. It also found that the data loss and the delay in restoration resulted from a failure to follow industry best practices.

At least two dozen agencies were affected by the late-August statewide crash of the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The crash paralyzed the departments of Taxation and Motor Vehicles, leaving people unable to renew drivers licenses. The disruption also affected 13 percent of Virginia's executive branch file servers.

Officials have said the outage originated with a data storage unit roughly the size of eight refrigerators in a data center in Chester, just south of Richmond.

"It was an unacceptable failure and one that cannot be allowed to reoccur," McDonnell said in a statement, adding that the findings will give Virginia a path forward for the state to recover losses from Northrop Grumman stemming from the outage.

The state's chief information officer, Sam Nixon, said the audit will help the state hold the company accountable in meeting the requirements of its 10-year, $2.4 billion contract to build, operate and maintain the state's 7-year-old, problem-plagued consolidated computer services bureaucracy.

Northrop Grumman disagrees with some of the audit's findings, but said many new procedures, policies and safeguards have already been established following the incident, company vice president Sam Abbate wrote in a letter to Nixon and Glen Tittermary, staff director of the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission.

The state's contract with Northrop Grumman is the largest single-vendor contract in Virginia history. The partnership has been repeatedly criticized in JLARC studies for poor and tardy delivery of services, cost overruns and system failures.

Northrop Grumman announced last year that it was relocating its corporate offices from Los Angeles to Fairfax County, Va. The company employs about 40,000 people in the metro Washington area, according to its website.

___

Online:

Virginia Information Technologies Agency: http://www.vita.virginia.gov/

Northrop Grumman: http://www.northropgrumman.com/

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