Report: Government earns B+ for Y2K progress

In its final report card on the government's efforts to combat Y2K, the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology gave the government a B+.

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With 39 days left before January 1, 2000, the federal government today earned a passing grade for its progress in fixing the Year 2000 technology problem.

In its final report card on the government's efforts to combat Y2K, the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology gave the government a B+, although a few agencies are still behind in their efforts and some programs weren't issued a grade at all.

Y2K: The cost of
fear In a change from previous surveys, the chairman of the subcommittee, Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) decided not to issue grades for more than 40 vital government programs, including Medicaid and Medicare. As the committee sees it, many programs dependent on the states and private organizations are not completely ready for the transition to 2000.

"The executive branch has made great strides in fixing and testing mission-critical systems," Horn said. "However, we have serious concerns with some of the nation's most essential programs, affecting millions of Americans."

When the subcommittee released its previous report in September, it examined the Year 2000 readiness of 43 federal programs, which were designated as "high impact" programs by the Office of Management.

"In September, only seven of the 43 programs were ready for the Year 2000. Now agencies report that 25 programs are ready. Although their Year 2000 compliance has tripled this quarter, 18 programs remain at risk of failure. At this date the simple question is: Are you ready or not?"

In September, the subcommittee issued separate grades for the first time to agencies for the readiness of 43 programs designated "high impact" by the Office of Management and Budget. Suddenly, agencies sporting A and B ratings for their own work found themselves on the laggard team because of state or private programs rated D or F with only a few months left until the Year 2000 rollover.

Among those agencies with programs not ready for the Year 2000 is Health and Human Services, with nine programs unprepared for the date change; the Department of Labor has one program not ready; the Department of Agriculture has five programs not ready; the Department of Education has just one not ready; and the Department of Transportation has two not ready.

Because of the new grading system, which separates those "high impact" programs from the whole grade of the actual department, many agencies with programs that are not yet ready still faired well on the total report card.

For example, although HUD's public housing program is not ready for the Year 2000, the agency itself received an A, which is the same grade given the Department of Labor. The Department of Agriculture, with four programs listed as not ready in the report card, still received an all around grade of A minus.

"In all, twelve departments and agencies report that their mission-critical systems are 100 percent ready," Horn said in a statement. "I commend those organizations and their managers for a job well done… Four departments--Defense, Health and Human Services, Justice and Treasury--still have a few mission-critical systems to fix."

The Justice Department was the only agency to get a worse grade than it received in the last report card. Justice was dropped from a C minus to a D.Back to Year 2000 Index Page

In addition, the Defense Department was bumped up from its previous grade of D to C plus. Health and Human Services maintained its C rating, while the Treasury Department moved up slightly from a C minus to C.

The administration overall, moved up from B minus in September to B plus today.

"With one exception, federal departments and agencies have greatly improved in the "additional criteria" categories of developing and testing contingency plans, fixing and testing telecommunications systems, testing external data exchanges, identifying embedded systems and completing verification efforts," Horn said.

The most troubling exception is Justice, which still has three mission-critical systems to fix and has not completed work in any of the "additional criteria" categories, Horn said.

"The department does have a contingency plan. But the plan is worthless because it has not been tested," he said.

Horn also highlighted the Internal Revenue Service's efforts as lagging behind because the agency is still checking the inventory of its computers at field locations--the first step in fixing the Y2K problem, according to Horn.

The so-called millennium bug refers to the fact that many computers are programmed to register only the last two digits of the year, meaning that "2000" may be read as "1900." If left uncorrected, such programs could generate errors and scramble the computers that companies use to keep track of customers, run their payrolls, handle their accounts, run elevators and monitor air traffic.