Shoddy shape of state, local 2000 readiness worries GAO

The readiness of state and local governments is becoming the chief source of
concern for General Accounting Office officials responsible for overseeing progress with
year 2000 fixes.

“We’re less optimistic when we look at state and local governments,”
said Joel Willemssen, GAO director for civilian agency information systems.

Speaking at a recent year 2000 forum in Washington, Willemssen said the lack of
detailed readiness data from key economic sectors also is worrisome because of potential
disruptions to water, power and telecommunications.

“Our big concern is not what we know but what we don’t know,” Willemssen

The federal government will not be out of the danger zone on March 31, the date most
agencies expect to complete their mission-critical systems fixes, Willemssen said.

“We’re talking about individual systems, not multiple systems working
together to support a key business area,” he said.

Agencies will need the remainder of the year for system-to-system testing “to make
sure all those exchanges and interfaces with other entities work as we hope,”
Willemssen said.

The Interior Department’s recent high grades for year 2000 readiness came largely
from good planning, Interior chief information officer Daryl White said at the forum.

“For every hour you spend planning, you save days and weeks in execution,”
White said.

The department’s Bureau of Reclamation, for example, sought authority to bring
back temporary dam operators—“the people who know how to turn the big wheels on
and off”—in the event of failure in systems that regulate water flow, he said.

Readiness “is not rocket science,” White said. “It’s good
management and good communications.”  


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