Feds receive 'above average' grade on Y2K

Lawmakers today released the last in a series of Year 2000 "report cards," giving the federal government an overall grade of B-plus for its efforts to correct the computer date problem.

The report card rated the progress made by 24 federal agencies. Most received a grade of A-minus or better. Twelve agencies, including the Social Security Administration and the Energy Department, received an A. The Justice Department received a grade of D, making it the only agency to score below a C.

"We have come a long way since we began examining this enormous technological challenge four years ago," said Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee. "When we issued our first report card in July 1996, only nine of the 24 largest executive branch department and agencies had a plan to address the problem," said Horn, who also is chairman of the House Task Force on the Year 2000 Problem.

Federal agencies overall received a grade of B-minus on report cards issued by Horn in June and August—an improvement from the C-plus he issued in February.

Less than 40 days remain until agencies will know how well they have prepared for the Year 2000 problem—a problem in which some systems may misinterpret the two-digit date field (00) for the year as 1900 instead of 2000, resulting possibly in system shutdowns or miscalculations.

Despite the good grades released today, Horn said he is concerned about Year 2000 efforts at Justice, whose grade fell from a C-minus in Horn's August report card. Horn also expressed concern about the Internal Revenue Service at the Treasury Department, whose grade inched up from a C-minus to a C over the past three months.

"The most troubling exception [to improvements in Year 2000 efforts] is the Department of Justice, which still has three mission-critical systems to fix," Horn said. "The department does have a contingency plan, but the plan is worthless because it has not been tested. We are also concerned about the Internal Revenue Service because the agency is still inventorying its computers at field locations—the first step in fixing the Y2K problem."

Paul Cosgrave, chief information officer for the IRS, testified before members of Congress in September that officials at his agency did "not anticipate a major failure." Cosgrave said then that the agency's inventory of about 800,000 pieces of computer equipment and software was more than 90 percent accurate and that Year 2000 problems in the agency's major information systems have been fixed. He also said the IRS was continuing to conduct a "wall to wall" inventory of its IT holdings and planning inventory audits as well as verification of computer inventories by an independent organization.

Stephen Colgate, CIO for Justice, told FCW that the department's three unfinished mission-critical systems will be fixed by mid-December.

Two of the systems cover office automation—word processing and e-mail—for overseas offices for the Drug Enforcement Administration and the FBI. Colgate said completing Year 2000 work on those systems will involve the secure shipping and installation of about 50 Year 2000-compliant workstations to posts overseas. "This isn't trying to develop a fix and find a solution," Colgate said. "It is literally the logistics of moving in a secure delivery mechanism those workstations in the U.S. to the foreign location."

The third Justice system includes workstations at Justice's Tax Division. Colgate said about 75 percent of the noncompliant workstations in the division have been replaced.

Colgate also said Justice officials plan a departmentwide test of contingency plans for Dec. 8-9. He said all of the department's individual agencies have tested their contingency plans.

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