Key systems miss Y2K deadline

Although the majority of the federal government's mission-critical systems are Year 2000-compliant, three congressmen warn that the government's most vital operation systems—including those in the Defense Department, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Health and Human Services—remain vulnerable to the Year 2000 computer problem.

Senators Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman and vice chairman respectively of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, along with Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, said they applaud the federal government's progress, but victory cannot be realized until all systems are compliant.

"The remaining [systems] are a concern because they include critical systems and services which play an important part in maintaining the health and well-being of our nation's citizens,'' Bennett and Dodd said in a written statement.

The warnings follow the Clinton administration's announcement last week that 92 percent of its 6,123 mission-critical systems were fixed by its self-imposed March 31 deadline.

The congressmen said critical systems that still need to be fixed include the FAA's air traffic control systems, HHS' Payment Management System (PMS) and DOD's early-warning missile defense system at the North American Aerospace Defense Command.

"It is a significant concern that these agencies are still fixing computer systems when they need to begin conducting the extensive testing necessary to ensure that the government's core business function work from beginning to end,'' Horn said.

John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said agencies are fixing or testing the remaining 8 percent of the mission-critical systems and expect to reinstall those systems by summer.

At the FAA, 14 critical air traffic control systems that provide communications and radar processing have not yet been installed. Paul Takemoto, an FAA spokesman who works closely with Year 2000 issues, said the agency's air traffic control systems will be compliant by June 30.

"The air traffic control systems are expected to be compliant at the end of June because of the complexity of repairing all those systems and installing them across the country,'' Takemoto said. "We recognized from the onset that we would not make the March 31 deadline without compromising the public's safety.''

The PMS system at HHS processes about $170 billion a year in federal assistant grants, block grants and contracts to more than 20,000 recipients. The system also is expected to be compliant by June, said John Callahan, HHS' chief information officer.

Koskinen and Ed DeSeve, outgoing deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, said they have outlined four key priorities that federal agencies will pursue during the final countdown to 2000.

One of the priorities includes completion of Year 2000 work on the remaining mission-critical systems, including end-to-end testing with states and business partners and completion of business and continuity plans.

"We are confident that the systems will operate as we move into the Year 2000," Koskinen said.

Bennett and Dodd said they will schedule a hearing this month to examine further the details of the government's Year 2000 readiness, focusing particularly on end-to-end testing and contingency plans.

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