State will refute report that says its efforts to correct date code are lax

The State Department this month plans to tell the General Accounting Office that it has
its date code fix-it efforts well in hand, despite a recent GAO report that concluded the
department badly needed to improve its year 2000 program.

“I think the GAO report sends out an unfair message,” said Dave Ames, deputy
chief information officer and chief of State’s Year 2000 Problem Program Management

The August report focused on State’s inability to fix mission-critical systems.
GAO said the department had renovated 17 of 40 mission-critical systems and State had
implemented two of the fixed systems.

“Should State fail to address the year 2000 problem in time, its mission-critical
operations could be severely degraded or disabled,” GAO said, citing State’s
Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS) and Messaging System as examples of highly
critical systems.

State’s implementation numbers are low because the department has so many offices
overseas that require lengthy implementation schedules, Ames said. “Most of our
systems are fixed and working,” he said.

State has implemented both CLASS, which it uses to screen visa applicants for criminal
and terrorist backgrounds, and the Messaging System, which it uses to handle records
traffic, Ames said.

In its report, Year 2000 Computing Crisis: State Department Needs to Make Fundamental
Improvements to its Year 2000 Program, GAO contends State has made more progress in fixing
non-mission-critical systems than mission-critical systems. About 21 percent of
State’s non-mission-critical systems are implemented, while only 5 percent of
mission-critical systems are back in operation, GAO said.

“It appears State has not placed enough priority on fixing its mission-critical
systems before its non-mission-critical systems,” GAO said.

GAO also said State needs to take more of a business perspective in responding to the
year 2000 problem because it’s primarily a business, not a technical, problem.

State earlier this year took steps to improve its year 2000 readiness, Ames said.

The department hired KPMG Peat Marwick of New York to manage its year 2000 efforts and
tapped Fernando Burbano to be its CIO. Burbano elevated the year 2000 program office to
the deputy CIO level, Ames said. He said the department’s recent efforts ought to
assuage GAO’s concerns and help the department meet the congressional watchdog
organization’s recommendations.

In its report, GAO made four recommendations:

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