White House shifts Y2K focus to states

Because most federal mission-critical systems are ready for the new millennium, the next governmentwide Year 2000 progress report, due out next month, will focus on federal interfaces with state systems, which reportedly are dangerously behind in Year 2000 fixes.

A spokesman for the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion said the next Office of Management and Budget Year 2000 quarterly report is expected to include for the first time information on about 160 state systems that interface with federal programs.

John Koskinen, head of the Year 2000 council, has said in the past he is concerned about the Year 2000 readiness of some state systems that interface with federal systems. Those federal systems support programs such as welfare assistance, unemployment insurance and Medicaid.

"This quarterly report will provide assessments on how the states are doing with federal programs,'' Koskinen said last week at a breakfast meeting attended by information technology vendors.

The federal government's concern about corrupted data from state systems entering federal systems has been building for months. At a Year 2000 conference for state government leaders held last October, Koskinen vowed to name the few states that had failed to provide OMB with crucial information about their interfaces with federal systems. In general, as part of his philosophy on Year 2000 efforts, Koskinen has said states, municipalities and corporations should be open about their progress in making Year 2000 fixes if they want "to be credible.''

Last week the General Accounting Office released a report that concluded that the District of Columbia is so far behind in fixing computers for the Year 2000 that it is at "significant risk" of not being able "to effectively ensure public safety, collect revenue, educate students and provide health care services." The district last month informed Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who held a hearing on the district's Year 2000 problem last week, that because of its problems, data the district police systems shares with the FBI may not be reported accurately.

OMB's plans to evaluate specific systems that may be dangerously behind in Year 2000 fixes has state officials upset. Steve Kolodney, director of the Department of Information Services in Washington state, and other state officials worry that if OMB lists the state systems that are behind schedule on the interfacing issue, bond rating companies and other businesses will assume those states are behind in their overall Year 2000 readiness.

"The [OMB] report to Congress will have some information about the states, and we're not clear at the moment where [Koskinen] is going to draw that information from," Kolodney said.

Kolodney said he was concerned that OMB might rely on a GSA-maintained database on the Year 2000 that he said is "not well populated." He added, "We have warned John [Koskinen] about this, and we have warned GSA."

Jack Gribben, a spokesman for Koskinen, said the OMB report will include information about state systems based on data OMB asked federal agencies to collect from their state counterparts.

The states are especially worried about such lists ever since the Wall Street Journal last year used data posted on the World Wide Web site for the National Association of State Information Resource Executives to report that several states had completed zero percent of their Year 2000 fixes. The data was based on self-reported figures supplied by the states, but several states failed to respond to the NASIRE survey. NASIRE's database then defaulted those states to a rating of zero-percent fixed. After the story ran, some state officials received calls questioning their bond rating in light of their so-called Year 2000 problems. Many of those officials now worry that an OMB hit list on state inventory progress could again raise those misconceptions.

Kathy Adams, assistant deputy commissioner at the Social Security Administration and chairwoman of the CIO Council's Year 2000 Committee, was upbeat about states' Year 2000 readiness for programs at SSA. Adams said SSA worked closely with the states that use an automated system to determine medical disability. "We are very pleased that all 50 automated systems are compliant and implemented,'' Adams said.

Kathryn Wilkerson, assistant chief information officer at the Department of Human Services in Arkansas, a state rumored to be mentioned as being behind in Year 2000 fixes, said she expects the department's systems that support federal programs such as Medicaid and food stamps will be ready by Dec. 31, 1999. But Wilkerson said she had no knowledge of the report. "No, I don't expect any report to show that we are lagging behind" in Year 2000 fixes for systems that interface with the federal government.


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