Year 2000 Computing Crisis

Time Is Running Out for Federal Agencies to Prepare for the New Millennium Gao ID: T-AIMD-97-129 July 10, 1997

Although federal agencies have made progress during the last year in resolving the Year 2000 computing problem, GAO believes that the pace needs to be accelerated if widespread systems problems are to be avoided as the millennium approaches. This testimony describes the federal government's strategy for addressing the Year 2000 problem and the status of agency efforts to resolve the issue. On the basis of its work at various agencies, GAO provides observations on federal efforts so far and on the Office of Management and Budget's implementation of the federal strategy, including Year 2000 reports submitted by 24 federal agencies.

GAO noted that: (1) the federal strategy for resolving the year 2000 computing crisis is detailed in a document OMB submitted on February 6 of this year to three House Committees: Government Reform and Oversight, Science and Appropriations; (2) the strategy is predicated on three assumptions: (a) senior agency managers will take whatever action is necessary to address the problem once they are aware of its potential consequences; (b) a single solution to the problem does not exist, and solving it requires modification or replacement of agency information systems; and (c) given the limited amount of time available, emphasis will be placed on mission-critical systems; (3) at the department and agency level, this strategy relies on the recently established chief information officers, or CIOs, to direct year 2000 actions; (4) to complement individual agency efforts, OMB is: (a) requesting that departments and agencies submit quarterly reports on their progress; and (b) sharing management and technical expertise through its CIO Council and the Council's Subcommittee on the Year 2000; (5) OMB has set as the standard that agency year 2000 activities should adhere to industry best practices for the five delineated phases of an effective year 2000 program: awareness, assessment, renovation, validation, and implementation; (6) on June 23, 1997, OMB transmitted its first quarterly report, dated May 15, 1997, to selected congressional committees on the progress of federal agencies in correcting the year 2000 problem; (7) in its report, based on May 1997 estimates, OMB noted that agencies expect to spend about $2.75 billion correcting systems to be what is called year 2000 compliant; (8) 18 of 24 departments and agencies reported that they would complete the assessment phase as of last month, the deadline in OMB's governmentwide schedule; (9) six reported that they would not meet the assessment phase deadline: Defense, Transportation, Treasury, Veterans Affairs, the Agency for International Development (AID), and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC); (10) GAO believes ample evidence exits that OMB and key federal agencies need to heighten their levels of concern and move with more urgency; and (11) other critical readiness issues that demand high-priority attention are data exchange, systems prioritization, and contingency planning.

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