Hill calls for 2000 czar

In the July 15 letter to the White House, the lawmakers also asked Clinton to publicize
the year 2000 problem and issue an executive order directing "agencies to give
highest priority to correcting the problem."


The lawmakers-Reps. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), Connie Morella
(R-Md.) and Bart Gordon (D-Tenn.)-signed off by noting, "We look forward to working
with you to ensure that Jan. 1, 2000, is not remembered as the day the government's
computers shut down."


The letter followed a testy House hearing this month and came as the Office of
Management and Budget reported that six of 24 major agencies missed the deadline for
identifying mission-critical systems that need code work. Congress mandated last year that
OMB give it quarterly reports on agencies' progress in preparing systems for the
millennium date change.


"Everybody recognizes that you need somebody at the top. Whether you want to call
it a czar or whatever, you need somebody in charge," said Morella, chairwoman of the
House Science Subcommittee on Technology.


Morella and Horn, chairman of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on
Government Management, Information and Technology, have been pushing OMB, the White House
and the agencies to make work on government date code the No. 1 administrative priority.


Morella said she and Horn want Clinton "to give a State of the Union-type of
speech to speak about computers, the year 2000, and its implications to our nation and our
international relations." The letter described this as the president making use of
his "bully pulpit."


She said House Republican and Democratic leaders support the idea of a year 2000 czar
because they are displeased with the level of scrutiny by officials at OMB.


Last summer, Sen. Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) made a similar suggestion [GCN, Aug. 26,
1996, Page 4].


An OMB spokesperson said the administration had no comment. Up to this point,
administration officials when asked about a year 2000 chief have said the job falls within
Sally Katzen's purview.


At hearings, agency meetings and public forums, Katzen, administrator of OMB's Office
of Information and Regulatory Affairs, serves as the government's senior spokeswoman on
the issue. She coordinated the preparation of the recent status report for Congress.


Horn, at the joint hearing of his and Morella's subcommittees earlier this month,
blamed the president for not paying enough attention to the federal date change projects.


"The people need to know that the government is moving fast enough and, frankly, I
wonder if the president has made this an issue," Horn said.


During the hearing, OMB officials said 18 of the 24 major agencies as of May 15 still
were assessing their systems and identifying those that need code work. Katzen said some
agencies are behind schedule but the administration is tracking agency date code programs
closely and she expects that all agencies will fix their mission-critical systems in time.


Guidelines set by OMB and published by the General Accounting Office required agencies
to finish the assessment phase by June 1.


OMB's report, Getting Federal Computers Ready for 2000: Progress Report, said the
administration has increased by $500 million its February $2.3 billion estimate of what
year 2000 work will cost the government. Katzen said the estimate likely will rise.


GAO officials seconded the comments by Morella and Horn. Department chiefs still have
not made the data code projects a top priority, said Joel Willemssen, director of health,
education and human services IRM issues for GAO's Accounting and Information Management
Division.


"Some agencies are leaving no time or very little time for validation and
implementation," he said. "They are cutting dangerously close to year
2000."


The OMB report said the Transportation Department plans to test, or validate, its
systems in December 1999 and start implementation in January 2000. The Office of Personnel
Management told OMB it plans to start testing in November 1999 and implementation the
following month. The National Science Foundation, NASA and the Veteran Affairs Department
will not implement fixes before December 1999.


Harris Miller, president of the Information Technology Association of America, said at
a recent Capitol Hill breakfast that Congress, too, should pay more attention to the
problem.


He said half of U.S. companies are not expected to have their systems ready for year
2000, which could cost billions of dollars.


"It will get your attention then, because it will get your constituents'
attention, and then your phones will ring off the hook," he said.


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