FAA faces congressional criticism on status of agency's date code fixes

FAA has budgeted enough
money to finish date code fixes, Ray Long, the agency’s year 2000 project director,

Federal Aviation Administration officials this month had to defend their
year 2000 progress at a hearing of the House Science Subcommittee on Technology.

FAA administrator Jane Garvey late last month said that FAA had fixed date code in 67
percent of its mission-critical systems and would have its systems ready by 2000. But at
the hearing a week later, General Accounting Office officials and lawmakers expressed

“With less than 17 months to go, FAA must still correct, test and implement many
of its mission-critical systems,” said Joel C. Willemssen, director of GAO’s
Civil Agencies Information Systems Accounting and Information Management Division.
“It is doubtful that FAA can adequately do all of this in the time remaining.”

GAO’s testimony sparked criticism by committee members.

“I find it appalling that an agency that is so computer knowledgeable has fallen
so far behind,” said Rep. Vernon J. Ehlers (R-Mich.). “FAA has a reputation in
Congress as being a poorly run agency. I hope FAA will change congressional opinion.”

Ray Long, FAA’s year 2000 project director, told the subcommittee the criticism of
his agency’s date code efforts is unwarranted.

“We will have processes and standards in place to fix the year 2000 problem by
June 30, 1999,” he said. “This leaves us ample time to complete testing by the
end of that year.”

Willemssen and Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee
on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, both said that they are not impressed by FAA’s

“FAA’s July 31 projections for completing renovation, validation and
implementation of the 159 mission-critical systems it is repairing will not meet the
Office of Management and Budget’s September 1998 and January and March 1999
milestones,” Willemssen said.

“In addition to these 159 systems, another 44 systems are being replaced,” he
said. “Of these, 38 are not scheduled to be replaced until June 30, 1999, according
to FAA schedules. These replacement systems, too, must be validated and implemented.”

Bennett, in a written statement, called FAA’s assertions questionable.

Bennett compared the FAA claims to a recent Defense Department inspector general report
that found DOD had mistakenly identified many of its mission-critical systems as fixed.
“I’m concerned this could also be the case at FAA,” Bennett said.

Rep. Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.) asked Long if FAA had enough money to complete its date code

“We are adequately funded to attack this issue,” Long said. “Our
estimate for ’98 was $98 million. We budgeted $59 million for 1999, and we feel have
enough money.”

Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), the subcommittee’s chairwoman, asked Long
whether FAA would guarantee air safety on Jan. 1, 2000.

“Without a doubt, it will be safe to fly,” Long replied.

Long told the subcommittee that he and Garvey still plan to board a commercial flight
late on Dec. 31, 1999, and fly coast-to-coast to show their confidence in air traffic
control systems.    

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