VA expects to meet March year 2000 deadline

VA’s Harold
Gracey says VA’s success is due to department-wide planning and an early

The Veterans Affairs Department will meet the administration’s March deadline for
year 2000 readiness, VA’s senior systems officials said last month.

VA has renovated 94 percent of its 319 applications, which support 11 mission-critical
systems, said Harold Gracey, acting assistant secretary of VA for information and
technology. VA has tested 84 percent of the systems and implemented 61 percent, he said.

“VA is in very good shape,” Gracey said. “I attribute our success to a
departmentwide effort of planning and getting on the project early.”

VA will spend $200 million on date code repair through 2000, according to the
department’s most recent status report to the Office of Management and Budget.

OMB has directed all agencies to finish systems renovations by the end of this month.
Testing must be done by January, and all systems must be running by March.

VA has implemented three of its 11 mission-critical systems: the National Cemetery,
Financial Management and Vocational Rehabilitation systems. The department also has fixed
more than 85 percent of the systems that support its education, compensation and pension
programs, the report said.

VA has renovated 98 percent of the Veterans Health Administration’s systems and
has nearly finished implementation. This includes the medical systems that support
clinical and administrative programs in VA hospitals, the report said.

VA began its date code repair in 1996 when deputy secretary Hershel W. Grober
designated departmental coordinators to manage the work and report progress, Gracey said.

The implementation phase will get a boost later this month when VA installs and
launches a mainframe system for the Veterans Benefits Administration, the report said.

VA officials also inventoried the electronic medical equipment it has bought from more
than 1,600 manufacturers over the years. VA officials said that 701 of the products are
year 2000-ready. Manufacturers are still certifying some machines, and some companies have
gone out of business, the report said.

“We strongly support President Clinton’s Good Samaritan law, which encourages
private-service providers to fully disclose year 2000 compliance for their products used
by agencies,” Gracey said.

VA also must fix systems supplied by telecommunications service providers and makers of
off-the-shelf products, Gracey said.

“It sounds like VA is reporting some very impressive numbers,” said Bob
Cohen, vice president of the Information Technology Association of America in Arlington,
Va. “We have to be careful not to view every report with a jaundiced eye.”

Cohen said he would like VA to further explain how it defines renovation, validation
and implementation. “I’m also interested how VA is testing its systems with
[links to] outside agencies,” he said.

Gracey said renovation covers the modification, replacement or elimination of a faulty
code; validation is the testing of code; and implementation is the full operation of the
application running the fixed code.   

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