GAO: 2000 czar must be stricter with agencies

The Clinton administration’s year 2000 czar must rein in agencies’ year 2000
work if critical systems are to be ready in time, a report from the General Accounting
Office said.


GAO praised the administration for creating the President’s Council on Year 2000
Conversion and appointing a 2000 chief. But if the council is to be effective, the report
said, it must use its influence to make sure agencies prevent disruptions to critical
services.


“The executive branch could improve oversight of federal agencies’ year 2000
efforts by requiring business and contingency plans for all mission-critical systems and
instructing all key agencies to report regularly on the status of their year 2000
efforts,” the report said.


But John Koskinen, chief of the council, said it is too early to demand that agencies
further prioritize their efforts to fix mission-critical systems.


In its report, Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Potential for Widespread Disruption Calls
for Strong Leadership and Partnerships, GAO recommended that the year 2000 council and the
Office of Management and Budget establish governmentwide priorities and ensure that
agencies set priorities for mission-critical business processes and systems.


“Agencies have taken longer to complete the awareness and assessment phases than
is recommended. This leaves less time for the critical renovation, validation and
implementation phases,” the report said. “Consequently, priority-setting is
absolutely essential.”


OMB and Koskinen’s council must identify systems that, if not corrected, would
threaten health, safety, national security and the economy, GAO said.


OMB has instructed agencies to have systems ready by next March [GCN, Feb. 23, Page 1], but it made no distinction
between types of systems.


“The [deadline] change could have the unintended consequence of diverting agency
attention from the most critical systems,” the report said.


Agencies need to reassess priorities now, GAO said, while there is still time to work
on systems that are essential. Agencies may find too late that high-priority systems
cannot be corrected in time, the report said.


Koskinen said there will come a time when agencies and the administration will need to
further prioritize date code projects. But he said now is not that time. “At this
time, I think the council should encourage agencies to concentrate their efforts on all of
their mission-critical systems,” he said.


GAO also recommended that OMB and the year 2000 council require agencies to seek
independent reviews of their progress.


GAO noted that OMB’s assessments are predominantly based on agency reports.
Without independent reviews, the report said, the government has no assurance that OMB is
receiving accurate information.  


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