For better grade in final exam on 2000, study up

Don't let the House's recent tough grading of agency plans for dealing with year 2000
systems fixes get you down. Instead, seek help available from government sources.

If the grades handed out last month by Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) are any
indication--only four based on a survey of 24 agencies--federal organizations need a hand
identifying and planning conversion work for code upgrades to handle dates when Jan. 1,
2000 rolls around.

For starters, check out the General Services Administration's special section on the
agency's World Wide Web site. It offers tips on handling date conversion problems,
including draft contract language for what it calls a fault-free performance clause.

GSA also is pushing its Multiple-Award Schedule vendors to voluntarily identify in
their catalog listings those products that are year-2000 compliant, GSA spokesman Bill
Bearden said.

Federal Supply Service officials are discussing with MAS vendors how best to identify
and tag these products. To make it easy for agency buyers, GSA officials said they want to
mark products with a ""millennium conversion special item number.''

The plan is that vendors identify these products in their price listings and in the
catalog information available uploaded to FSS' on-line shopping service, GSA Advantage.

Agencies seeking full-service options to revise code should check with GSA's Federal
Systems Integration and Management Center (FEDSIM) for a list of qualified vendors. But
there are no quick and easy fixes, FEDSIM officials warned.

""FEDSIM has not found a silver bullet or for that matter any Lone Ranger
vendor that can magically solve this problem,'' said John Ortego, chief of the FEDSIM's
Federal Systems Management Center. ""Traditional tools such as those used for
configuration management, asset management and code analysis testing are imperative in
addressing these problems. Each agency needs to assess its particular situation and ensure
that it has the basic tools needed.''

Meanwhile, officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology have issued
a voluntary industry date-processing standard and a technical bulletin advising agencies
on how to attack the problem.

NIST also will be hosting a federal year 2000 conference next year. But top agency
officials warned that agencies can't wait for the conference and need to start devising
correction plans immediately.

""We're rapidly approaching the date, and the amount of time agencies have
left depends on the complexity of the legacy code that needs to be corrected,'' said
Robert Hebner, NIST's acting deputy director. ""You have to count on 40 to 50
percent of the time and budget being allocated to testing, especially for any modified

Agencies needing a quick primer on the year 2000 problem can attend a free FEDSIM
briefing Aug. 21 at the GSA headquarters building in Washington. For more information on
the briefing, send an e-mail message to Cheryl Fahl at

Try the GSA Year 2000 Home Page: Go to

Read up on FIPS 4-1, Representation for Calendar Date and Ordinal Date for Information
Interchange Go to

Find out about FEDSIM's Century Date Change Services: Check http:///

Look soon for MAS contracts labeled with the "special millennium conversion item
number": Select GSA Advantage at

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