End users urge: Halt code fixes, set 2000 backup plans

CIO Council’s Kathy Adams
says after certifying systems, be sure to lock in contingency plans.

With roughly 14 months left to prepare systems for 2000, some agencies are beginning to
think about what was once unthinkable: setting a cutoff for date code work, whether or not
systems are fixed.

The idea might seem nonsensical to agencies rushing to finish 2000 work by the March
1999 deadline set by the Office of Management and Budget, but some government officials
said the push is coming from users concerned about the confusion that could accompany
last-minute changes to systems. Users worry they might be left guessing about what works
and what does not, agency officials said.

It is possible the administration will impose a ban, said Kathleen Adams, the Social
Security Administration’s assistant deputy commissioner for systems. The Chief
Information Officers Council’s Year 2000 Committee has suggested the idea to John A.
Koskinen, chairman of the President’s Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, she said.

“One of the things we’ve talked to John about is a moratorium on any
changes” after a certain point, said Adams, chairwoman of the CIO Council committee.
“The issue is: At what point?”

Great Britain and Canada have imposed a moratorium on year 2000 code work after Sept.
30 of next year, said William A. Curtis, the Defense Department’s year 2000 project

A handful of agencies are considering imposing their own bans on date code work
sometime next year to make sure they have workable contingency plans in place come Jan. 1,

The call for a shift in agencies’ year 2000 efforts is coming from computer users,
not technical staffs, Curtis said. Frontline workers are less concerned about whether
systems are completely fixed than they are about whether they will be able to do their
jobs, he said.

Although most systems will likely be ready, a few glitches could stall some programs,
Curtis said. Halting code work would give agencies a chance to set contingency plans for
doing their jobs, he said.

Curtis noted that agencies must test and rehearse contingency plans just as they have
had to test code fixes.

“If you don’t know how to use them, they’re of no use,” Curtis

“Once you test it and you certify your system, you have to lock them down,”
Adams said of contingency plans.    

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