What to do first? Implement new policy or fix 2000 code News

Hard choices are confronting agencies on their urgent timetables for year 2000 code
fixes. The Social Security Administration, for example, is working to implement new
welfare legislation while finishing its year 2000 repairs.


Because of the time crunch, new legislative requirements may not be fully implemented
in software initially, said Kathleen Adams, SSA associate commissioner for systems design
and development and head of the Year 2000 Interagency Committee.


"There'll have to be tradeoffs," Adams said, between adding recent
legislative changes to the Supplemental Security Income program and sticking to the
schedule of fixing and testing software for 2000 readiness.


"The bulk of our year 2000 coding changes are going to be made in the middle of
next year," Adams said at a recent government and industry roundtable in Washington
sponsored by the Information Technology Association of America.


"We have a big system going in at the end of this year to handle initial claims
for the Social Security program, and in March 1997 we'll be releasing our initial claims
and post-entitlements software for the Supplemental Security Income program," she
said. "We'll implement the legislation as best we can, but 100 percent may not be
automated."


A nonmandatory timetable guiding the Interagency Year 2000 Committee and the Defense
Department gives DOD and civilian agencies until June to inventory their systems and
interfaces, and to complete their risk assessments and project 2000 plans.


"I'm concerned that we've spent so much time on awareness and that what we really
need to do now is stop talking and get working to fix the problem," Adams said. She
expects information technology staffs within DOD and civilian agencies soon will feel
high-level pressure to meet those targets.


It's likely, for example, that the Interagency Year 2000 Committee will be pulled under
the authority of the Chief Information Officers Council, chaired by John Koskinen of the
Office of Management and Budget, she said. Once that happens, "things could happen
very quickly," Adams said.


Similar urgency has propelled high-level DOD officials to propose a Year 2000 Steering
Committee chaired by the deputy secretary of Defense. "We can't get much higher than
that," said Carla von Bernewitz, who heads the DOD Working Group on the Year 2000.
Her group will report to the steering committee once its charter is approved, which could
be soon, she said.


The DOD 2000 effort will be largely decentralized and carried out by the military
services and agencies, von Bernewitz said. Many of those components will rely on cost
estimates developed as long as a year ago by Mitre Corp.


"We thought by now people would have come up with better numbers, but they
haven't," said a Mitre senior software systems engineer. The estimate calculations,
posted on Mitre's World Wide Web site, are "partly algorithmic, partly
empirical," he said. But to use these numbers, people need "a good solid
inventory" of their systems.


The top Mitre cost estimate of $8.52 for command and control systems includes the
testing phase--almost half of the cost--and could vary quite a bit, the engineer added.


"If a radar system is badly affected and needs critical maintenance, it might be
that you would have to fly the radar on a airplane and give it targets, so you can see the
costs will start to mount up," he said.


More reliable cost estimates are on the way, von Bernewitz said, with the Institute for
Defense Analyses now under contract to develop separate costing algorithms for
mission-support information systems, weapons systems, and command, control and
communications systems by early next year.


"Right now they're saying January, but I'm going to muscle them to December if
possible," she said.



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