Year 2000 Computing Crisis

Readiness Improving But Much Work Remains to Ensure Delivery of Critical Services Gao ID: T-AIMD-99-149 April 19, 1999

Vital federal services and functions could be disrupted unless the government's computer systems are Year 2000 compliant. Consequently, GAO has included the Year 2000 problem on its list of high-risk government operations. (See GAO/HR-97-9, Feb. 1997.) This testimony (1) highlights the Year 2000 risks confronting the nation, (2) discusses the federal government's progress and remaining challenges in correcting its systems, (3) identifies state and local government Year 2000 issues, and (4) provides an overview of the available information on the readiness of key public infrastructure and economic sectors.

GAO noted that: (1) the federal government's most recent reports show improvement in addressing the year 2000 problem; (2) while much work remains, the federal government has significantly increased the percentage of mission-critical systems that are reported to be year 2000 compliant; (3) while the federal government did not meet its goal of having all mission-critical systems compliant by March 1999, 92 percent of these systems were reported to have met this goal; (4) while this progress is notable, 11 agencies did not meet the Office of Management and Budget's deadline for all of their mission-critical systems; (5) additionally, not all systems have undergone an independent verification and validation process; (6) some agencies are significantly behind schedule and are at high risk that they will not fix their systems in time; (7) agencies must work early and continually with their data exchange partners to plan and execute effective end-to-end tests; (8) given the interdependencies of federal agencies, it is imperative that contingency plans be developed for all critical core business processes and supporting systems, regardless of whether these systems are owned by the agency; (9) in GAO's review of the 24 major departments and agencies February 1999 quarterly reports found that business continuity and contingency planning was generally well underway; (10) the government's future actions need to be focused on its high-priority programs and ensuring the continuity of these programs, including the continuity of federal programs that are administered by states; (11) accordingly, governmentwide priorities need to be based on such criteria as the potential for adverse health and safety effects, adverse financial effects on American citizens, detrimental effects on national security, and adverse economic consequences; (12) state and local governments also face a major risk of year 2000-induced failures to the many vital services that they provide; (13) a recent survey of state year 2000 efforts indicated that much remains to be completed; (14) the year 2000 also poses a serious challenge to the public infrastructure, key economic sectors, and to other countries; (15) the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion subsequently established over 25 sector-based working groups and has been initiating outreach activities since it became operational last spring; and (16) these sector-based working groups will also be assessing their sectors.

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