House panel matches $2.25B Y2K funding

A House Appropriations subcommittee voted June 11 to set aside $2.25 billion in emergency funding for civilian agencies to pay for century date fixes in fiscal 1999.

The Treasury, Postal Service and General Government Subcommittee also said agencies that are in danger of not having their computer systems repaired in time must start reporting in more detail on their contingency plans.

In a June 5 letter to subcommittee chairman Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-Ariz.), Reps. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) and Constance Morella (R-Md.), both of whom have led Year 2000 oversight efforts in the House, had asked that the subcommittee require agencies to speed development of backup plans and provide more details on their progress.

The pool of money matches the amount the Senate Appropriations Committee last month agreed it would allocate for the Year 2000 problem, although the Senate panel has not given its final approval to the plan. The Clinton administration separately has requested $3.2 billion for emergencies, including Year 2000 repairs.

Mark Uncapher, vice president of the Information Technology Association of America and a former aide to Horn, said the subcommittee vote is "encouraging." Many in Congress and in the information technology industry contend that fixing the Year 2000 problem governmentwide will cost more than the administration's $5 billion estimate.

"One of the problems there has always been for Congress is that they're not in a position to come up with a number," Uncapher said. If agencies do not ask for more money "that means they're not really in a position to spend it effectively," he said, but with an emergency fund in reserve, there will be some available if it turns out they need it.

Of the Year 2000 funding proposed in the House bill, which the full Appropriations Committee plans to consider Wednesday, $359 million would be earmarked for the Internal Revenue Service.

The measure also includes $210 million for the IRS' information systems modernization program and $10.4 million that Clinton requested for electronic records management programs at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Also last week, the House Appropriations Committee's Energy and Water Development Subcommittee rejected an administration request for $22 million to fund the Energy Department's share of the interagency Next Generation Internet program. Congress did not give DOE any funding for the project this year.

The panel included in the bill $329.1 million for the DOE Accelerated Strategic Computing Initiative. A full committee vote on the measure is planned for Tuesday.

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