Horn reports feds make headway on Y2K

A House Republican who follows federal agencies' progress in fixing their computers for the Year 2000 bug, today gave a more optimistic view of the federal government's ability to have computers fixed before the new millennium.

Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology, said he expects 11 agencies will have their millennium computer glitches fixed by the Clinton administration's March 31 deadline, and 20 of the 24 major federal agencies will have their computers fixed by Dec. 31, 1999.

In his seventh quarterly report card, Horn gave the Clinton administration an overall grade of C-plus for its Year 2000 efforts, which is an improvement from previous reports when the federal government received a D or an F.

Horn warned that he is cautiously optimistic about the progress because his report is based on data supplied by the agencies who submit their progress to the Office of Management and Budget. Horn said he cross-checks the data with agencies' inspectors general and the General Accounting Office.

"Many of the agencies have made truly remarkable progress in bringing their mission-critical computer systems into the Year 2000 compliance,'' Horn said. "But a C-plus is disappointing, considering the noteworthy accomplishments of most federal departments and agencies.''

Of the 24 agencies Horn graded, 11 received A's, seven received B's, three received C's and three received F's. Agencies in the A category are expected to make the March 31 deadline, Horn said.

Those agencies receiving F's are the departments of State and Transportation and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Horn said the Federal Aviation Administration's antiquated air traffic control system is a significant part of DOT's lack of progress. "[FAA's] progress rate makes the horse and buggy look like rapid transit,'' he said. Even though they expect some airplanes to be grounded next year, Horn and Rep. Constance Morella, (R-Md.), chairwoman of the Technology Subcommittee of the House Science Committee, said they have confidence in the FAA leadership to turn things around.

State is having a problem fixing communication systems overseas, which is keeping the department behind, Horn said. And USAID "remains buried at the bottom of our grade pool,'' he said. "Given its current progress, we aren't sure which millennium this agency is targeting for compliance. Agency officials, of course, disagree. They report that the work will be completed by September 1999. Don't count on it.''

Horn said that agencies should focus on state and international computer systems that interface with the federal government because they are significantly behind in their Year 2000 efforts. In the next OMB report, to be released next month, the White House will examine federal interfaces at the state level. [See related story, White House shifts Y2K focus to states.]

"In Europe, there is still an attitude of denial,'' Horn said. "Hopefully there will be a last-minute panic to fix the systems so they won't pollute our systems."

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