Y2K czar claims feds will be ready for 2000

President Clinton's Year 2000 czar today told Congress that he is confident that all federal mission-critical systems will be fixed and ready for the new millennium.

John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, told a joint House committee hearing that even those federal agencies, such as the Defense Department and the Federal Aviation Administration, that have reportedly lagged in fixing their computers for the Year 2000 computer problem will be ready by the end of 1999. Koskinen appeared before a joint hearing of the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee and the House Technology Subcommittee.

Koskinen said he supports DOD's recent claims that the department will have all of its 2,304 mission-critical systems fixed, tested and reinstalled by Dec. 31. [See "Hamre asserts DOD will be ready for Y2K."] He said DOD should have 90 percent of its systems fixed by March 31, which is the deadline that the Office of Management and Budget had set for all federal agencies to have their systems Year 2000-compliant. For all of the federal government, Koskinen said more than 80 percent of the mission-critical systems should be compliant and reinstalled by OMB's March deadline.

Koskinen said the Health Care Financing Administration, which manages Medicare, the national health program for the elderly, also should be ready by the end of the year. HCFA has been criticized for its lack of Year 2000 progress, especially for not adequately ensuring the compliance of the computer systems operated by the dozens of contractors that process Medicare bills and payments. Most Medicare contractors are expected to meet the March 31 deadline, Koskinen said, but he did not say how many contractors would be compliant.

Koskinen also said he is "confident that the air traffic control system will be totally compliant well in advance of the Year 2000." Congress and the General Accounting Office had mentioned the FAA as one agency that had not made Year 2000 fixes fast enough to avert potential dangers in the air traffic control system.

Joel Willemssen, director of civil agencies information systems at GAO, disagreed with Koskinen. "I am not optimistic that [the FAA] will be compliant well in advance," he said. The air traffic control system has a lot of systems that are still at risk of missing the deadline because the FAA got such a late start in fixing them, he said.

Koskinen told Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, that he did not foresee any need for new legislation to help the federal government meet the Year 2000 deadline. He said the $3.25 billion emergency funding for Year 2000 that Congress passed last year "has been a tremendous help."

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