by Stephen Horn, Chairman
"Only 199 days remain until we greet the new millennium, with its expectations and enormous challenges. The 24 largest agencies and Cabinet departments in the executive branch of the federal government are spending nearly $9 billion to mitigate the millennium¹s most immediate and potentially devastating challenge the Year 2000 computer problem, also called the Millennium Bug or Y2K. It has taken a great deal of hard work, but progress is being made.
"Up to now, the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology, which I chair, has focused on mission-critical systems¹ and embedded chips.¹
"But the American people who depend on vital Federal programs, such as Medicare and Social Security, simply want to know that these programs won't grind to a halt on January 1, 2000.
"The problem, of course, dates back to the mid-1960s when programmers, seeking to conserve limited computer storage capacity, began designating the year in two digits rather than four. The year 1967, for example, simply appeared as 67.¹ Regardless of the merits of the decision, now we all must deal with it.
"On behalf of the Subcommittee of Government Management, Information, and Technology, I am pleased to release our eighth report card on the Year 2000 progress within the executive branch of the Federal Government.
"Our analysis is based primarily on the self-reported data we had eceived from each agency on May 14. Our staff has worked closely with the General Accounting Office to analyze the material and develop thes grades.
"We have found that the government's mission-critical systems are 94 percent compliant up from 79 percent in February. Good progress has been made, but there are still critical systems to fix. The FAA¹s Air Traffic Control System is not Year-2000 compliant. Nor is the Department of Health and Human Service's Payment Management System ready. Each year, this computer system processes nearly $165 billion in payments and grant programs, such as Medicaid.
"The concern is that until all of these systems are compliant, government agencies cannot begin their program-wide testing. "In addition, we reviewed the agencies¹ progress in other key areas. Have they developed viable contingency plans? Are they are examining telecommunications and embedded systems? Are they verifying their work?
"We found that 70 percent of these activities are still in progress. Yet even with the additional weight placed on these criteria, more than half of the 24 departments and agencies earned A¹s this quarter. I congratulate them on their tireless efforts, which I hope will continue. "Just as you would not grade college seniors on the same set of criteria expected of college juniors, our expectations for this quarter rose, placing greater emphasis on the agencies' progress in these additional areas of Year 2000 compliance.
"Based on these higher criteria, the government merits an overall B-minus. Although everyone would like to bring home an A, we're getting close to the finish line, and the executive branch still has quite a way to go.
"The Office of Management and Budget has identified 43 federal programs it calls high impact¹ programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and the nation's Air Traffic Control system. Each day, these programs provide critical services to millions of Americans, but only two of them Social Security and the National Weather Service say they are ready for January 1, 2000.
"We will continue to monitor these programs in our quarterly report cards. Each one involves a host of public- and private-sector partners from vendors and suppliers to state and local governments. Several of them are not scheduled to be ready until December.
"In examining this list of high-impact programs, you may notice some inconsistencies and absences. The list includes Federal Employees' Life Insurance, which is an important program, but one of limited scope. Yet the list fails to include other major areas of concern such as national defense and the Internal Revenue Service. The latter directly affects every taxpayer in the country. Both are astounding omissions. This subcommittee will not let these vital programs off the hook.
"So while I applaud the work that has been accomplished, we are not finished. The federal government will not be Year-2000 ready until the agencies and their partners have fixed and tested all of their systems and programs and until every agency has a practical contingency plan in case their best Year-2000 efforts fail."