Latest data refutes FAA claims on Year 2000

While the Federal Aviation Administration contends that it will meet its Year 2000 conversion deadline, the latest data the agency submitted to the Office of Management and Budget shows that it will have less than 40 percent of its systems operational by Jan. 1, 2000, a source familiar with the data said.

The information the FAA submitted will be included in OMB's next quarterly report on the progress the federal government is making in fixing its computers so they can properly process dates after 1999. The OMB report card, which is due out this month, is "disturbing news" and highlights the snail's pace at which the FAA is moving with its Year 2000 program, according to the source.

OMB, Congress and the General Accounting Office have cited the FAA as being one of the agencies that is the farthest behind in fixing its computer systems. The Transportation Department, of which the FAA is a part, is on OMB's critical list of agencies that have shown insufficient progress in managing the Year 2000 problem.

The FAA told OMB that it has completed assessing its mission-critical systems, and it reported that it has renovated 10.8 percent of the systems, validated 8 percent and claims that another 4.7 percent of its systems have been fixed, tested and reinstalled. "This is disturbing news because at this rate, less than 40 percent of systems will be completed by the time the Year 2000 rolls around," the source said. "What this means is that we're going to have a lot of airplanes on the ground." At a hearing last week of the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's Subcommittee on Aviation, Gerald Dillingham, associate director of transportation issues at GAO, said, "The FAA's progress in making its systems ready for the Year 2000 has been too slow. The agency has been severely behind schedule in completing basic awareness and assessment activities, [which are] critical first and second phases in an effective Year 2000 program."

However, FAA administrator Jane Garvey told the subcommittee the FAA would meet its Year 2000 deadline.

Ray Long, the FAA's Year 2000 program manager, also is confident FAA systems will be fixed and operational by 2000. The Air Traffic Service, where the FAA operates the nation's air traffic control systems, has 209 mission-critical systems, of which "only 84 have a Year 2000 problem, and of the 84 systems, about 30 are already in renovation," he said.

The FAA also reported to OMB that its cost to fix its computer systems will total $156 million— a reduction from the $266 million that the FAA said it would cost at the time of the last OMB report in December 1997. Long said the reduction resulted from using FAA employees to rewrite software code.

The agency's original cost estimates were based on what industry charges for Year 2000 work, from $4 to $8 a line, he said. But not included in the total cost, Long said, is the replacement of the host system, which manages traffic flying between airport terminal areas.

The system is located in 21 en route air traffic control centers and consists of 40 mainframes that will cost millions of dollars to replace. Garvey told the subcommittee last week that the FAA has asked Congress for $72 million in fiscal 1999 to replace its host computer system.

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