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Report: Federal Y2K efforts slow

Government efforts to fix Year 2000 problems slowed during the last quarter, according to the most recent federal report.

As the end of the century nears, government department efforts to fix Year 2000 computer problems slowed during the last quarter, according to an Office of Management and Budget report released yesterday.

The Defense and Interior departments fell behind in their efforts to fix the Year 2000 problem, and will have to meet higher reporting requirements, according to the latest quarterly report by the Office of Management and Budget. Despite these findings many other agencies are making headway on their Y2K code conversion programs.

The report outlines progress at 24 federal agencies in fixing Year 2000 problems for the quarter ending May 15 and is the fifth one released by the OMB. The report dropped Defense from Tier II, agencies showing evidence of progress but still a concern, to Tier I, or the so-called "critical list," which indicates a lack in adequate progress. The Interior department was lowered from its Tier III status to Tier II, the report said.

According to the report, virtually all agencies have adopted accelerated schedules for the completion of their Y2K conversion work. While the Defense and Interior deparments fell from previously held tiers and another three agencies, the Energy Department, Health and Human Services Department, and Agency of International Development, remained behind schedule last quarter, the federal government continues to make progress in addressing the Year 2000 problem.

The bug has its roots in antiquated hardware and software formats that denote years in two-digit formats, such as 98 for 1998 and 99 for 1999. The glitch will occur in 2000, when computers are fooled into thinking the year is 1900. The glitch could throw out of whack everything from bank balances to elevator maintenance to building security procedures.

"I am pleased that the OMB has been able to award nine federal agencies the most favorable rating, Tier III," the acting deputy director for the management office of management and budget G. Edward Deseve said in a statement. "For these agencies, at least 71 percent of their systems are ready for the next century. I am encouraged by the serious attention agencies have given to this issue and fully expect that they will report increased progress as their efforts to either fix or replace critical systems near completion."

The acting deputy director said for those agencies not making progress, OMB has decided to implement additional steps to more closely monitor their activities, including heightened reporting requirements. His office is making agencies in Tier I and Tier II provide on a monthly basis their goals for getting their systems ready, along with their progress in meeting those goals.

The status of the Defense Department was expected because a similar report by the General Accounting Office released last month said the department's efforts to fix its computer systems for the year 2000 are moving at a snail's pace, making failure of "at least some mission-critical systems and the operations they support almost certain."