Administration gets B-minus for Y2K

Despite the progress the Clinton administration has made in fixing computers for the Year 2000 date change problem, the federal government is critically behind in ensuring that federal services administered on the state level will continue uninterrupted next year, Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) said last week.

Horn, chairman of the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, said many federal programs are at risk for the Year 2000 problem because computer systems at the state or local level or those that are operated by private companies that help support the federal program are not compliant.

"The federal government has made significant progress in upgrading its essential computer systems," Horn said. "But it is only one link in the broad and complex chain that provides federal services to the millions of American citizens who rely on them. We need to prod the executive branch to do their job. We can't do it."

"Connecting with our partners is where the federal government has got to make some improvements," said Rep. Constance Morella (R-Md.), chairwoman of the Technology Subcommittee of the House Science Committee. "There are an alarming number of high-impact programs that are not Year 2000-compliant. These are the types of programs every American expects the federal government to deliver."

Horn gave the Clinton administration an overall grade of B-minus in its efforts to make federal systems and programs free of Year 2000 problems. The grade, on the eighth report card Horn has issued on the government's Year 2000 remediation process, is the same Horn gave the administration in June.

Rep. Judy Biggert (R-Ill.), vice chairwoman of Horn's committee, said the federal government has made only a 1 percent increase in its overall mission-critical system compliance, which explains why the overall grade for the agencies remained at a B-minus.

"That's unacceptable," Biggert said. "The question must be asked, 'Where is the Clinton administration's leadership?'... The president needs to get off the sideline and get into the game."

For the first time, Horn graded the Year 2000 readiness of 43 major federal programs and services that tens of millions of Americans use, including Medi-care, the National Weather Service, child nutrition and food inspection, and retired rail workers' benefits.

"Thirty-six programs remain at risk of failure when the clock ticks past midnight on Dec. 31," Horn said. "In many cases, the federal agency responsible for the program may be compliant, but its business partners - state and local governments, and the private sector - who assist in delivering the service are not ready."

Horn said only seven high-impact programs such as Social Security benefits and veterans' health care are prepared for the Year 2000. The majority of the high impact programs and services are due to be compliant between October and December, which is cutting it close, Horn said.

Rep. Jim Turner, (D-Texas), who sits on Horn's committee, said the administration should be applauded for its efforts to fix computers for the Year 2000 and the public should not feel that their lifestyles will be in serious jeopardy come Jan. 1.

"There may be some minor inconveniences because no one can be sure if all systems are fixed," Turner said. "My opinion is the federal government is in good shape in terms of its Year 2000 compliance."

***

Year 2000 Progress Report Card

Grades for OMB-designated high-impact federal programs

Agency/Program GradeCommerce—B+DOD—DDOE—CDOJ—C/ADOT—FEducation—CFEMA—DHHS—FHUD—C-Interior—FLabor—FOPM—DState—ASSA—ATreasury—DUSDA—DVA—A

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