GAO says agency systems headed for Y2K breakdown

Federal agencies now stand to not have many of their computer systems fixed in time for the new millennium, the General Accounting Office told Congress today.

Testifying before the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, Joel Willemssen, the director of civil agencies information systems at GAO, said that at the current pace, agencies will not meet the March 1999 deadline for Year 2000 compliance set by the Office of Management and Budget.

Only about 40 percent of agencies' mission-critical systems were Year 2000-compliant in May, compared with 35 percent in February and 27 percent in November, according to Willemssen. "If this rate of progress were to continue, it's clear that many individual mission-critical systems will not be compliant in time," he said.

To fix the systems in time, Willemssen estimated that agencies would have to quadruple their rate of work. Officials at many agencies, however, have contended that the percentage of systems they have made Year 2000-compliant will increase greatly in the coming months as renovation ends on many systems that now fall into the "noncompliant" category.

But systems that agencies categorize as "compliant" may not necessarily be compliant, according to Willemssen. "We have, in fact, found cases in which agencies' systems conversion status as reported to OMB has been inaccurate," Willemssen testified. "For example, the Department of Agriculture reported 15 systems as compliant, even though they were still under development or merely planned."

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