Coming up short on Y2K

The first major Year 2000 milestone passed almost unnoticed last week.

Sept. 30 was a target date set by the Clinton administration for agencies to have all their mission-critical systems renovated, yet it slipped quietly past many federal agencies, which are still frantically fixing their computer systems, and past many critics.

In a quarterly report released in November 1997, the Office of Management and Budget asked agencies to complete the renovation of all mission-critical systems by September. OMB also set January 1999 as the deadline for agencies to complete testing the systems and March 1999 as the date to reinstall the systems.

Most of the seven agencies OMB identified as being the furthest behind in Year 2000 fixes, in the so-called Tier 1 category, did not meet OMB's goal for renovation (see chart, Page 1).

Tier 1 agencies include the departments of Defense, Education, Energy, Health and Human Services, State and Transportation and the Agency for International Development.

Although most Tier 1 agencies fall short or do not have data to report current figures, it appears that nothing will be done by OMB in the short term to help those agencies catch up. An OMB spokesman said the targeted date was not a "deadline" but rather a "goal" that the chief information officers set and that OMB included in its August 1998 quarterly report.

He said the idea behind the goal was for "agencies to try and meet" the milestone and that OMB "will wait for the next quarterly report to come out'' before commenting further. The next report is scheduled to be released by late November or early December.

Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), who has led the oversight of agencies' Year 2000 progress in the House, said OMB has few options to force agencies that did not meet the September goal to improve their progress. However, he said OMB should make Tier 1 agencies submit weekly reports on their Year 2000 efforts.

"If an agency has renovated 85 percent of its systems, that's not bad,'' said Horn, who admitted that he was not aware of the September goal. "But what can OMB do if the systems are not renovated? All we can do is bring it to light.''

Defense Department officials said they could not provide current data on how many mission-critical systems have been renovated since the August report because that data will not be collected until shortly before the next OMB quarterly report is released this fall.

In the recent quarterly report, DOD reported that 70 percent of its mission-critical systems have been renovated.

By contrast, some agencies have identified that more of their mission-critical systems have been renovated since the summer but still fall short of the September goal, and these agencies are not scheduled to finish the job until the end of this year or even later. The U.S. Agency for International Development, for example, is scheduled to have four of its five mission-critical systems renovated by January, with the remaining system renovated by March. John Streufert, a Year 2000 program manager at USAID, said only two of the agencies' mission-critical systems have been renovated.

Streufert said that if the agency had the funding, it could accelerate its Year 2000 efforts and have the mission-critical systems renovated much sooner. "It's feasible that we can speed things up if we had the funds,'' he said. "We are requesting Y2K supplemental funds to accelerate technical activity.''

Gay Morris, the Year 2000 manager at HHS, said HHS expects to receive data this week on how far along it has come in its renovation. The agency's internal systems, Morris said, are all renovated. External systems— those run by contractors for functions such as medical billing under the Medicare program— are causing concern, she said.

"I have no way of saying to vendors what they must get to me when they are not in my management structure,'' Morris said. "We are trying to verify the data that external companies have submitted. We're hoping to get the data by [Oct. 5].''

Olga Grkavac, senior vice president of the Information Technology Association of America's Enterprise Solutions Division, said she is not surprised that the Tier 1 agencies did not meet the Sept. 30 goal.

"I thought the date was not achievable for most of the agencies in view of where they are,'' Grkavac said. "This is not the only deadline many of the agencies will miss..... The concern is, time still marches on."

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