Flyzik to Horn: Report cards get an F

James J. Flyzik has begun a grassroots campaign to get Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.) to
expand the criteria his subcommittee uses to come up with its year 2000 report cards.


The Treasury Department's chief information officer said recently that the California
Republican's report cards have outlived their usefulness. Agencies are focused on fixing
date code in mission-critical systems, he said, and more bad grades will not heighten the
focus.


The grades fail now because they don't go beyond that original goal, Flyzik said. He
argued that if Horn's House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Government
Management, Information and Technology looked at other aspects of year 2000 work, it would
find agencies are not doing badly.


"I think what Congressman Horn is using for grading serves as a tool of sort that
is constantly keeping the pressure on us, as Congress should," Flyzik said. "My
issue with the grading scheme is that it does not necessarily account for a lot of other
major issues."


From now on, Flyzik said, Congress should also ask what agencies are doing on date
codes issues for items such as networks and the systems interfaces agencies have with
state and local governments.


"There is a lot more to a program than just fixing the mission-critical systems
from the point of view of the application," Flyzik said.


Treasury has not received good grades from Horn's subcommittee. The department got a D
on the report card Horn released earlier this month. That was an improvement over the D'
Treasury received in the fall.


The current grading system has two flaws, Flyzik said. First, Congress does not
acknowledge work on non-mission-critical systems. "I don't think agencies are getting
credit for some of these program pieces," Flyzik said.


The latest agency reports sent to the Office of Management and Budget include data on
non-mission-critical systems for the first time. Most agencies said they have not finished
identifying code problems in those systems. Agencies also told OMB that, in many
instances, they have not determined the status of the date code in embedded systems.


OMB and Congress previously had not asked agencies to include data on
non-mission-critical and embedded systems.


Second, Flyzik said, the continuous use of the report cards to underscore the
government's inability to fix systems might undermine public opinion. What good, for
instance, will creating paranoia about the safety of the nation's banking system or air
traffic control system do, he asked. "I think we've got to be careful what signal we
send out to the public about the government's readiness," he said.


Although Horn said he understood Flyzik's point, he said that adding new facets to the
grading would not guarantee better grades for the agencies.


"Mission-critical systems were chosen because, by definition, they are the most
important aspect of the problem," Horn said. "In general, the federal government
is at least as far behind on non-mission-critical systems as it is on mission-critical
systems, so adding them to the mix does not necessarily brighten the outlook."


One way to defuse the friction between agencies and Congress is for more discussion
about the date code work among the agencies, OMB and Congress, Flyzik said.


"I am sure there will be a great deal of dialogue," he said. "I think it
will pick up dramatically as we get closer to year 2000."


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