Feds get a D for Y2K progress

With agencies making only slight improvements this summer in fixing millennium computer glitches, a House Republican overseeing the government's Year 2000 progress last week gave the Clinton administration a below-average grade for its efforts.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, gave the administration an overall grade of D for its management of the Year 2000 problem through Aug. 15.

Horn's overall assessment is a notch higher than the failing grade he issued the administration in June.

During a press conference last week in the House, Horn said the slight improvement can be attributed in part to the many people in the federal government who are working hard on the Year 2000 problem.

"We should be cautious, however, about using the word 'improvements' in the context of a D grade,'' Horn said. "As a former professor, I have seen students flunk out of college by earning too many D's. This is not a grade you take home to your parents, and it is definitely not a grade to take back to the voters and taxpayers."

Horn still is concerned about the number of agencies that are moving too slowly; those agencies are listed in his report. Of the 24 agencies, Horn issued six F's, seven D's, three C's, five B's and three A's.

Horn's report stated that the departments of Justice, Education, State and the Agency for International Development are failing. The departments of Health and Human Services and Energy each earned an F for the second quarter in a row, according to Horn's report.

The Social Security Administration received an A, the grade it has consistently received since Horn's first Year 2000 report card in 1997. Also receiving an A were the National Science Foundation and the Small Business Administration.

Even though the Defense Department earned a D, Horn said he is "encouraged by the strong leadership demonstrated recently by Secretary William Cohen and Deputy Secretary John Hamre. Both released memos this summer stating that fixing the Year 2000 problem is a priority at DOD.

"The way the grades were crafted, I think [Horn] is being very fair,'' said Rep. Constance Morella (R-Md.). "We are somewhere between Chicken Little and Pollyanna.''

Horn released his report card just days after the Clinton administration issued its quarterly assessment of agency progress in fixing computers for the Year 2000 bug. In that report, the Office of Management Budget reported that half of the government's 7,343 mission-critical systems are Year 2000-compliant, up from the 40 percent in May. OMB reported that more than 70 percent of all government systems have completed renovations, but they have yet to be tested and reinstalled.

Horn estimates the costs to fix the government's systems will total $6.3 billion compared with OMB's estimate of $5.4 billion. Horn said his estimate came from the General Accounting Office, which calculated the total based on estimates submitted by all 24 agencies.

OMB officials said the estimates are different because OMB has not determined that all the budget estimates submitted by the agencies are "appropriate and consistent.''

Jack Gribben, a spokesman for the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said there is common ground between the administration report and Horn's. Gribben said he predicted that Horn would grade the administration slightly higher because it has made some improvements. But he questioned Horn's grading system, which forecasts how the agencies will rate in the future based on their current performance.

"Letter grades are based on estimates,'' Gribben said. "The OMB report is based on where the agencies are now. I think there is some common ground [in both reports]. We think the agencies are making good progress. We are confident that a vast majority of systems will be ready. I would disagree with the analysis used to arrive at a grade of D.''

Horn's subcommittee based agencies' grades on the percentage of mission-critical systems that agencies have made Year 2000-compliant and the percentage of systems agencies said they would have Year 2000-compliant by March 1999.

Also factoring into the grading scheme were criteria such as the completeness of Year 2000 contingency plans, which form a strategy should agency systems fail in 2000, and data exchange with other organizations.

"Progress is being made, but it is not being made fast enough,'' Horn said. "We need to redouble our efforts, and we need to make more progress faster if this government and the nation are going to be ready for the new millennium.''

Horn applauded President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore for publicly acknowledging the Year 2000 problem as a priority and introducing legislation that encourages public and private organizations to share resources when trying to fix the computer glitches.

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