D.C. faces close call with Y2K compliance

Despite a late start and some sloppy accounting, all of Washington D.C.'s critical computer systems will be Year 2000-compliant, but it will be a close call and will require more than a 50 percent increase in federal funding, city officials said on Friday.

Mayor Anthony Williams, testifying before the District of Columbia subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform, said the district will go down to the wire for full compliance but will have all systems ready and contingency plans in place for Jan.1.

But district officials said they need additional federal funds to reach the finish line and recently filed a request for $68 million in additional funding with the Office of Management and Budget.

Officials from the General Accounting Office, however, took issue both with D.C.'s timeline for Year 2000 compliance and its inability to track the funds the district has received to date.

Although the district has made notable progress with Year 2000 fixes, it still is in danger of not meeting the deadline, according to GAO, and the district has not fully accounted for how it had spent the $120 million in funding it has received for Year 2000 fixes.

GAO had "received inconsistent and unreliable cost data from several District officials," said GAO official Gloria Jarmon. "The district cannot offer assurance that funds intended for Y2K efforts have been properly or effectively spent."

However, Williams and the other district officials acknowledged that they had encountered difficulty in tracking Year 2000 funds and said efforts were under way to accurately track the money. But they also noted that the district's Year 2000 readiness efforts contributed to the problem.

Given the emergency status of the remediation efforts, the district's top priority has been simply securing the funds, Williams said. "In my world, you have to distinguish between the top priorities that are blowing up, and just the top priorities," he said. "The city is going to be ready."

"They would have been pulling people off of Y2K to track funds," said the committee's ranking minority member Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), who also said she would "continue to do everything I can to protect those [federal Y2K] dollars for the district."

Suzanne Peck, Washington D.C.'s chief technology officer, reported that of the city's 223 mission-critical systems, 130 are Y2K ready and the remaining 93 are in different phases of remediation and testing. Those 93 systems will complete testing by the end of October and return to production in November, she said.

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