Newport News Shipbuilding, which relies heavily on sophisticated computer systems in virtually every phase of its business, is battling northern Virginia high-tech companies over computer law.
And that conflict brought to light for the first time an incident several years ago that shipyard executives now say came close to shutting down the yard temporarily.With a bill it is pushing in this year's session of the General Assembly, the shipyard means to make sure it never again comes that close to a halt at the hands of a computer vendor.
The near shutdown of the yard was due to a dispute with Computer Associates International Inc.
Computer Associates had secretly embedded a "time bomb" in software it had licensed to the yard for a certain period of time. Once the contract expired, the time bomb would render the software useless, the shipyard said.
At the time, the yard and Computer Associates apparently were negotiating renewal of the contract.
The bill submitted to the General Assembly on the shipyard's behalf by Del. Alan Diamonstein, D-Newport News, would make the secret implanting of such coding a criminal offense.
A Computer Associates spokesman at company headquarters in Islandia, N.Y., confirmed the dispute with Newport News Shipbuilding.