Year 2000 Computing CrisisFAA Must Act Quickly to Prevent Systems Failures Gao ID: T-AIMD-98-63 February 4, 1998
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has lagged in making its computer systems ready for the year 2000. At its present rate, FAA will not make it in time. The agency has been severely behind schedule in completing basic awareness activities, a critical first phase in an effective Year 2000 program. For example, FAA appointed its initial program manager for Year 2000 issues only six months ago, and its overall Year 2000 strategy is not yet final. FAA also does not know the extent of its Year 2000 problem because it has not completed most of the key activities in the assessment phase, the second critical phase in an effective Year 2000 program. The potential serious consequences include degraded safety, grounded or delayed flights, higher airline costs, and customer inconvenience. Delays in completing awareness and assessment activities also leave FAA little time for critical renovation, validation, and implementation efforts--the final three phases in an effective Year 2000 program. With two years left, FAA is quickly running out of time, making contingency planning for continuity of operations even more critical. FAA estimates that the entire program will cost $246 million, although the agency lacks the information it needs to develop reliable cost estimates.
GAO noted that: (1) many of FAA's systems could fail to perform as needed when using dates after 1999, unless proper date-related calculations can be assured; (2) the implications of FAA's not meeting this immovable deadline are enormous and could effect hundreds of thousands of people through customer inconvenience, increased airline costs, grounded or delayed flights, or degraded levels of safety; (3) FAA's progress in making its systems ready for the year 2000 has been too slow; (4) at its current pace, it will not make it in time; (5) the agency has been severely behind schedule in completing basic awareness activities, including establishing a program manager with responsibility or its year 2000 program and issuing a final, overall year 2000 strategy; (6) further, FAA does not know the extent of its year 2000 problem because it has not completed key assessment activities; (7) specifically, it has yet to analyze the impact of its systems' not being year 2000 compliant, inventory and assess all of its systems for date dependencies, make final its plans for addressing any identified date dependencies, or develop plans for continued operations in case systems are not corrected in time; (8) until these activities are completed, FAA cannot know the extent to which it can trust its systems to operate safely using dates beyond 1999; (9) delays in completing awareness and assessment activities also leave FAA little time for critical renovation, validation, and implementation activities--the final three phases in an effective year 2000 program; and (10) with under 2 years left, FAA is quickly running out of time, making contingency planning even more critical.