GAO: Systems will miss Y2K deadline

Many federal computer systems may not be fixed in time to meet theadministration's March 1999 deadline, the General Accounting Office told Congress last week.

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 ofManagement 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, Willemssen said. "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," he said.

Importance of Accurate Data

William Curtis, manager of Year 2000 efforts at the Defense Department, agreed with Willemssen on the importance of accurate information on Year 2000 progress.

"If we're really going to manage this problem, we've got to have accurate data," he said.

Curtis' testimony before the subcommittee came only days after the DOD inspector general released a report that concluded, "DOD components are not complying with Year 2000 certification criteria before reporting systems as compliant."

The report estimated that in November only 109 systems of the 430 reported by DOD as Year 2000-compliant were actually certified as compliant.

Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), subcommittee chairman, called on President Clinton to place more of an emphasis on the Year 2000 problem, which, according to the latest OMB Year 2000 report, will cost the government an estimated $4.9 billion to fix.

"The president must take a leadership role," Horn said.

"The president should designate the Year 2000 problem as a national priority," he said. "We cannot afford further delay and foot dragging. We cannot accept major agencies being late. We cannot tolerate thousands of the federal government's mission-critical systems failing."

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