FAR interim rule spells out Year 2000 compliance

The General Services Administration last week issued an interim rule that elevates its "recommended" Year 2000 warranty language to the level of a governmentwide regulation.

The interim rule is contained in a new Federal Acquisition Regulation Federal Acquisition Circular 45. The interim rule effective immediately is designed to help agencies acquire Year 2000-compliant technology as they conduct new procurements or modify existing contracts. The Year 2000 problem has attracted much government and industry attention amid concern that the two-digit date fields used in many software and hardware systems will fail to process date-related data accurately.

The FAR interim rule defines Year 2000 compliance using language nearly identical to that contained in GSA's recommended Year 2000 contract language published in September [FCW Sept. 16 1996].

The contract language recommended for "voluntary use" by agencies was developed after considerable negotiations between government and industry representatives. The FAR language builds upon that earlier guidance.

"The key on the warranty language is really that it was the first standard definition of what it means to be Year 2000-compliant " said Laurence Wolfe acting deputy associate administrator of GSA's Office of Information Technology in the Office of Governmentwide Policy. "This [interim rule] takes that definition and moves it into the FAR."

The FAR interim rule defines compliance as "information technology that accurately processes date/time data (including but not limited to calculating comparing and sequencing) from into and between the [20th and 21st] centuries and the years 1999 and 2000 and leap year calculations."

The interim rule further suggests that agencies ensure that solicitations and contracts require Year 2000-compliant technology or require that noncompliant technology be upgraded.

In addition the interim rule asks government agencies to "describe existing information technology that will be used with the information technology to be acquired and identify whether the existing information technology is Year 2000-compliant." Wolfe said this kind of information could be contained in a request for proposals.

Comments on the interim rule should be submitted to GSA's FAR Secretariat by March 3. Wolfe said he expects that the final rule will be published in April. Because GSA incorporated industry comment in the similar GSA warranty language "we don't anticipate too many changes if any " to the FAR interim rule Wolfe said.

Carla Von Bernewitz chairwoman of the Defense Department's Year 2000 Working Group called the interim rule "a positive move forward." She said that while some DOD components have used their own Year 2000 contract language the interim rule is "an across-the-board" effort that "brings consistency across DOD."

Marc Pearl vice president of government affairs at the Information Technology Association of America called the interim rule a "great first step forward. In general its exactly the route you want to go" to assist agencies in purchasing Year 2000-compliant technology.

He noted however that he would like to see GSA clarify the interim rule's language regarding the interaction of Year 2000-compliant technology with other products.

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