HUD halts IT maintenance work to support Year 2000

Faced with less than a year to make its computer systems Year 2000-compliant, the Department of Housing and Urban Development this month stopped routine maintenance on five of its largest systems so that programmers can devote their full attention to fixing the date codes in the systems.

Under the plan, HUD programmers will not make any software code changes in the systems other than to fix the lines that affect dates, and the business processes will continue, said David Cristy, HUD's director of information policy and management. The agency's decision to stop all work not related to Year 2000 on the five systems is "essentially a risk-mitigation, risk-management strategy," Cristy said.

The computers affected are legacy systems that HUD considers mission critical. The five systems are:

* The Line of Credit Control System, which processes payment requests.

* The Program Accounting System, which processes basic accounting transactions.

* The Computerized Homes Underwriting Management System, which supports underwriting mortgages.

* The Single Family Insurance System, which supports management of single-family mortgage insurance.

* The Single Family Claims Subsystem, which processes the payment of claims.

HUD will continue to follow the new policy until March 1999, the deadline the Office of Management and Budget has set for agencies to have fixed, tested and reinstalled their systems, Christy said.

HUD's decision was hailed by Joel Willemssen, the General Accounting Office's director of civil agencies information systems. "From a managerial perspective it's a positive move," he said. "We've been emphasizing the need for agencies to establish priorities; so we support HUD's move to focus its efforts on fixing its mission-critical systems for Year 2000 compliance."

Willemssen also said in GAO's preliminary investigation of HUD, which began in March, it found that HUD was behind schedule on 20 of its 30 mission-critical systems that needed to undergo renovation, testing and certification. While some delays are only a few days, 13 of the 20 are experiencing delays of two months or more.

The GAO report, "Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Strong Leadership Needed to Avoid Disruption of Essential Services," also noted that HUD's Year 2000 project officials said: "If more delays threaten key implementation deadlines for mission-critical systems, they will stop work on nonmission-critical systems in order to focus all resources on the most important ones."

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