Feds ready for Y2K, but local 911 systems remain at risk

With only 50 days left until the first day of the new millennium, 99 percent of the federal government's mission-critical computer systems are prepared to handle the date change, according to the Clinton administration's final Year 2000 report released today.

"We are confident, subject to glitches, that the basic work of the federal government is done," John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said at a press conference. The report is the 11th in a series of updates on the federal government's progress in fixing Year 2000 problems. The Office of Management and Budget released the first quarterly report in February 1997.

Of the more than 6,000 mission-critical systems in the federal government, only 40 remain to be fixed for the Year 2000 date-change problem, Koskinen said. Most of those systems are in the Defense Department, which has sufficient backup and contingency plans for those systems, he said.

However, the council is concerned about local and state governments and small businesses, which may have computers that still interpret the Year 2000 as 1900 because systems rely on a two-digit date field to identify the year.

The nation's 911 call centers, which are operated by local governments, are a particular problem, Koskinen said. As of Oct. 1, survey results from more than 2,700 call centers revealed that only 50 percent of the centers were Year 2000 compliant.

Most at risk are the 911 centers' automation systems, which automatically dispatch emergency response teams to a particular area, Koskinen said. Because the council's surveys are confidential, Koskinen would not discuss the locations of those 911 centers. Most of the systems have manual backups that may cause delays in emergency response, he said.

Most of the nation's 911 centers expect to complete their Year 2000 remediation before the end of the year, he said. "Those who are not done are obviously cutting it very close," Koskinen said.

Koskinen stressed the need for government, businesses and individuals to continue testing systems and developing contingency plans.

"It is inevitable that there will be glitches in those systems even though they were tested and appear to be operating," he said.

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