FAA will not meet OMB's final date code deadline

The Federal Aviation Administration beat its own deadline for fixing date code
on some mission-critical systems, but FAA expects that it won’t make the Clinton
administration’s deadline for finishing year 2000 work.

FAA had set a July 30 deadline for fixing date code work in 60 percent of its
mission-critical systems.

“I am delighted to say we have 67 percent of those systems renovated,” FAA
administrator Jane Garvey said last month at a press conference.

Garvey would not estimate when FAA systems will be healthy enough to ensure safe
operation of commercial air traffic. “I am not speculating on any given time,”
Garvey said. “What I will say is that it will be safe to fly on Jan. 1, 2000.”

The Office of Management and Budget has given FAA until Sept. 30 to renovate all its
systems. When the code fixes are complete, FAA will validate and implement the new code,
Garvey said.

Some testing has already begun, Garvey said. But FAA expects to finish its validation
work by March 31, three months after the Jan. 31 OMB deadline.

“We are working very hard to advance that to the January OMB date, but because of
the sheer number of systems and their complexity, it requires us to take a little
longer,” said Ray Long, director of FAA’s Year 2000 Program Office.

FAA also expects to lag behind by three months on implementation. OMB has directed
agencies to be using new code by March 31. FAA officials said they expect the agency will
finish the implementation phase by June 30.

Date code problems were found in about 4 percent of the FAA’s 23 million lines of
codes, Long said. Of FAA’s 657 computer systems, 433 are mission-critical. Of those
433 systems, 159 required code repairs. FAA still is working on the code for 53 systems,
he said.

“I’m particularly proud and pleased at the progress air traffic control has
made,” Garvey said. “Air traffic control has the most complicated systems and
the ones everyone is most focused on. They have renovated about 70 percent of those

The renovated air traffic systems include the long-range radar system used primarily by
en route centers to track aircraft and the system used to transmit aircraft identification
data to controllers, Garvey said.

FAA has faced heavy criticism from Congress, OMB and private interest groups for
falling behind in fixing date code. The press conference was the second time in the past
month that FAA has publicly discussed its year 2000 progress. FAA officials last month
announced that the agency had fixed date code in its old IBM mainframe systems.

An information technology analyst said FAA still has much work to do.

“I am real encouraged by the progress FAA has made in addressing the year 2000
problem,” said Olga Grkavac, senior vice president for integration at the Information
Technology Association of America. “However, the progress does not mean FAA is out of
the woods. The next 514 days are critical.”

Meanwhile, FAA also is working with its overseas counterparts to ensure safety on
international flights, Garvey said.

“We are working closely with the International Air Transport Association and the
International Civil Aviation Authority, both of which are extremely focused on the year
2000 problem and performing assessments,” she said.

A conference next month in Montreal will bring together international aircraft
regulatory groups to discuss the year 2000 problem in international aviation, Garvey said.
ICAO will release a risk assessment study for participating countries later this year.

“We are very optimistic about the domestic scene. There is no doubt,” Long
said. “But we don’t want to sound overconfident because the year 2000 problem is
an unknown bug.”


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