Move beyond talk on Year 2000

It was good news and bad news for agencies at last week's hearing on the Year 2000 held by the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Government Management Information and Technology. The panel's leadership was pleased with the increased visibility the code-fix problem has achieved but it was equally displeased with how agencies have pushed the deadlines to the limit in many cases to the final quarter of 1999.

That's a pretty good summation of the government's Year 2000 effort to date. Yes agencies are aware of the problem and are in stages of assessing and fixing systems. But the cold reality is that this awareness and apparent earnestness may be too late.

General Accounting Office officials acknowledge that it just is not realistic to assume that all systems will be fixed before the deadline. The key tasks for agencies now are to evaluate systems determine which are critical to the basic functions of government public safety and national security and get to work. Government overseers would be wise to let agencies focus on this work.

Numbers games report card exercises and unrealistic goal setting should be shelved in favor of more constructive help. GAO has launched a guide for assessing Year 2000 plans. Emphasis on human resources requirements and automated tools used to speed agency efforts to fix the problem also would go a long way toward a solution.

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