GAO exec: Feds must get it together on 2000

Independent reviews are the key
to accurate date code data, GAO’s Joel C. Willemssen says.

The government still must establish priorities for year 2000 work, a General Accounting
Office auditor told a House panel this month.

Agencies also have not yet tackled the issues of ensuring that data exchange points are
ready or developing adequate contingency plans, said Joel C. Willemssen, director of
GAO’s Civil Agencies Information Systems Division.

Willemssen also characterized agency year 2000 progress as uneven when he testified at
a hearing of the House Government Reform and Oversight Subcommittee on Government
Management, Information and Technology.

“Some agencies are significantly behind schedule and are at high risk that they
will not fix their systems in time,” he said.

To make matters worse, Willemssen said, there is no reliable information on agency year
2000 status. The Office of Management and Budget is making its assessment of year 2000
progress based predominantly on agency reports that aren’t consistently reviewed or
verified, he said.

“Without independent reviews, OMB and the President’s Council on the Year
2000 Conversion have little assurance that they are receiving accurate information,”
he said.

For example, the Defense Department’s inspector general estimated that almost
three-fourths of the mission-critical systems that DOD reported as ready in November 1997
had not been certified as fixed. In May, the Agriculture Department reported 15 systems as
ready even though they didn’t exist.

Agriculture will remove the systems from the year 2000-ready list in its next quarterly
report, Willemssen told the subcommittee.

“If priorities are not clearly set, the government may well end up wasting limited
time and resources in fixing systems that have little bearing on the most vital government
operations,” he said.

Contingency planning has also been inadequate across government, Willemssen said. Only
four agencies reported in May that they had drafted contingency plans.


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