Agriculture: Paychecks will get doled out come 2000

Government employees
often wonder if they’ll be paid after Dec. 31, 1999, Agriculture CIO Anne Thomson
Reed says.

The year 2000 problem won’t stop the National Finance Center from getting
paychecks to hundreds of thousands of government employees, the Agriculture
Department’s chief information officer said recently.

“Wherever I go and speak, people always ask me whether they will receive their
paychecks after Dec. 31, 1999,” said Anne Thomson Reed, Agriculture’s chief
information officer. “I assure them we have taken steps to make NFC’s computer
systems year 2000- ready.”

Reed said the center is also ensuring that all links in the payroll processing chain
are connected.

To allay fears among government employees, Reed and other NFC officials reported to
government managers on the status of payroll systems during a seminar early this month.

“The purpose of the seminar was to assure them of the steps NFC is taking to make
its computer systems year 2000-ready,” said Sandra T. Ginyard, Agriculture’s
year 2000 program manager for information technology.

NFC, the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service and the Federal
Reserve Board comprise a team that is responsible for end-to-end payroll processing for
435,000 government employees, 100,000 of whom work for Agriculture.

Besides Agriculture, NFC is responsible for the payrolls for the Commerce, Justice and
Treasury departments, the IRS, and the Library of Congress.

Congress has criticized Treasury for falling behind in date code repair. An Aug. 6
House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Oversight report said that the department has made
inadequate progress in renovating systems at FMS, which also issues checks for Social
Security, Medicare and other federal programs (see story, Page 14).

Ed McManus, NFC year 2000 project manager, chronicled NFC’s date code work during
the seminar, which included presentations from Treasury and Federal Reserve officials.

Agriculture had fixed 23.5 million lines of code on June 30, McManus said. The work
involved identification, remediation, testing and implementation, he said.

Six mission-critical systems have been renovated, McManus said, including those for
payroll and personnel, the Thrift Savings Plan, administrative payments, billings and
collections, and accounting and property.

NFC is now in the validation phase; Agriculture is using a single-processor IBM
9672-R15 mainframe running OS/390 to test code. Validation and implementation will be
completed by December, McManus said.

McManus also explained Agriculture’s contingency plan to the 100 or so attendees
at the seminar, held at the Agriculture Department.

Four diesel-powered generators will be on hand to provide electricity should faulty
date code lead to a power outage, McManus said. NASA has offered backup diesel fuel for
the generators, he said.

If paychecks cannot be delivered electronically, they will be delivered by plane,
truck, car or “pony express,” McManus said.

Phil Zellers, chief information officer at USDA’s National Agriculture Statistics
Service, said the presentation was very good at showing how NFC carried out its plans.

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