IT problems lead GAO's high-risk list

The Year 2000 problem and information security practices leave the federal government susceptible to fraud, waste and abuse, according to a series of reports the General Accounting Office released yesterday.

The "High Risk" reports coincide with the release of 21 other reports that detail major management challenges and program risks across the executive branch of government, from a troublesome organizational structure at the Housing and Urban Development Department to high infrastructure costs at the Defense Department.

Information technology takes the spotlight in the series of reports. GAO places the Year 2000 problem at the top of the list of high-risk concerns. Agency officials describe Year 2000 as "the most pervasive, time-critical risk facing the federal government today," the report said. GAO next listed information security weaknesses, productive use of information technology and financial management practices as the top high-risk areas.

In releasing the reports, GAO added to its list of high-risk programs the Federal Aviation Administration and the Forest Service, two agencies which face financial management problems, the report said. The Customs Service, cited in the past for similar problems, was removed from the latest GAO list, however.

Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee, said the reports "reveal a fundamental lack of management accountability throughout the government."

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Science Committee, echoed Thompson's concern. "I'm perplexed that these agencies have yet to successfully address these persistent management problems after the Congress has provided these agencies with the necessary management tools," Sensenbrenner said.

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