Year 2000 Computing Crisis

Actions Must Be Taken Now to Address Slow Pace of Federal Progress Gao ID: T-AIMD-98-205 June 10, 1998

No major organization, public or private, is immune to potential disruptions caused by the upcoming change of century--including a wide array of government programs vital to Americans. In February 1997, GAO included the Year 2000 problem on its list of high-risk government areas. Since then, GAO has issued more than 40 reports and testimonies detailing specific findings and recommendations related to Year 2000 readiness at a host of federal agencies. GAO has also published guidance to help organizations deal successfully with this issue. The common theme has been that serious vulnerabilities remain in addressing the federal government's Year 2000 readiness and that much more action is needed to ensure that federal agencies avoid the debilitating consequences of the Year 2000 problem. This testimony discusses the results of the most recent reports submitted to the Office of Management and Budget on the federal government's slow progress in achieving Year 2000 compliance. GAO also provides its views on what needs to be done now to minimize disruptions to critical services.

GAO noted that: (1) in May 1997, OMB reported that about 21 percent of the government's mission-critical systems were year 2000 compliant; (2) a year later, these departments and agencies reported a total of 2,914 systems as compliant--about 40 percent of the 7,336 mission-critical systems in their current inventories; (3) OMB, the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, and Congress lack sufficient information with which to judge the progress of systems to be replaced; (4) agencies will also need a significant amount of time for essential end-to-end testing of multiple systems that have individually been deemed year 2000 compliant; (5) the Council implemented a number of GAO's recommendations for minimizing year 2000 risks, including: (a) requiring federal agencies to establish priorities for their mission-critical business process; (b) requiring agencies to develop plans for the testing and independent verification and validation of their systems; (c) requiring agencies to provide information on their year 2000 progress; (d) issuing OMB guidance on the development of business continuity and contingency plans; and (e) examining various options for ensuring that an adequate number of qualified people are hired to perform year 2000 work; (6) as the amount of time to the turn of the century shortens, the magnitude of what must be accomplished becomes more daunting; (7) greater leadership and coordination of disparate efforts is essential if government programs are to meet the needs of the public 19 months from now; and (8) the Conversion Council must play a central role in ensuring that agency action not only stays on track, but accelerates significantly.

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