Federal 2000 emergency funds are going, going, halfway gone

How much have civilian agencies received?

The government is spending its emergency year 2000 funds too quickly and perhaps
unwisely, a group of Capitol Hill lawmakers is contending.

So far, the Office of Management and Budget has allocated nearly half of the $2.5
billion Congress allotted in fiscal 1999 for emergency 2000 needs by civilian agencies.
OMB also is reviewing a request from the Defense Department to tap the $1.1 billion
lawmakers granted for DOD emergencies. Four members of Congress are questioning OMB’s
judiciousness in doling out the funds.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah) and Reps. Dick Armey (R-Texas), Steve Horn (R-Calif.) and
Connie Morella (R-Md.) sent the White House a letter suggesting the administration
“carefully re-evaluate [the federal government’s] year 2000 needs, taking into
account the year 2000 costs determined by the General Accounting Office.”

Even as the four lawmakers recommended that the White House rein in agency spending,
they also called on President Clinton to give year 2000 programs a higher priority on the
White House agenda.

In his State of the Union address last week, Clinton called on all levels of government
to work together on the year 2000 problem.

“This is a big, big problem, and we’ve been working hard on it,” the
president said. “I want all the folks at home listening to this to know that we need
every state and local government, every business, large and small, to work with us to make
sure that this Y2K computer bug will be remembered as the last headache of the 20th
century, not the first crisis of the 21st.”

The government’s overall cost estimate for completing year 2000 work jumped $1
billion late last year to $6.5 billion. The $3.35 billion in emergency funding
appropriated last year—$2.25 billion for civilian agencies and $1.1 billion for
DOD—is well on its way to being spent.

“This emergency funding, intended to specifically address year 2000-related
emergencies, should be preserved only for vital government year 2000 compliance
efforts,” the letter said.

John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion,
however, said at a hearing earlier this month that the contingency funding is integral to
getting agencies’ systems fixed.

With less than a year left, “the government does not have time for the normal
supplemental appropriations process to provide funding for critical needs in this
area,” Koskinen said.

The four lawmakers also said they want agencies to look beyond their own systems when
checking for readiness.

“For example, while we are encouraged that the Social Security Administration has
been deemed compliant, we understand that some financial institutions that are essential
to recipients receiving payment may not be,” the letter said.

The four Republicans recommended that the administration establish deadlines for
completing end-to-end testing and make the issue a national priority.  

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