- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 15, 1999

All but eight of the federal government’s 6,175 computer systems were deemed ready for the year 2000 by the Office of Management and Budget yesterday, leading President Clinton to declare a victory in the war against the dreaded new year’s bug.
“We have met the challenge of making sure that the federal government can continue to serve the American people as we enter the next century,” the president said.
The OMB also increased its estimated cost of fixing the federal government’s year-2000 computer problems to $8.38 billion, up 0.4 percent from its estimate in September.
Yesterday’s report is the last OMB study of the federal government’s year-2000 preparedness.
John Koskinen, chairman of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said at the National Press Club yesterday that government agencies have made substantial progress since Feb. 1998, when he took over the job of overseeing the massive federal computer overhaul.
“Some in Congress had just given the federal agencies a grade of D-minus for their efforts to prepare systems for the year 2000. Actually, in the interest of full disclosure I should reveal that after three months of my leadership, the grade changed to an F. The consensus was that the government wouldn’t make it,” Mr. Koskinen said.
Despite the progress since early last year, yesterday’s OMB report indicates work remains to be done on six of the 2,106 systems within the U.S. Department of Defense and two computer systems within the U.S. Department of Justice.
The OMB said work on those eight systems is expected to be complete by the end of this month.
None of the Defense Department computer systems in need of work will jeopardize the agency’s ability to protect the nation, said Rep. Stephen Horn, the California Republican tracking year-2000 computer preparations of the 24 largest federal agencies and departments.
In addition to the eight federal computer systems in need of work, 10 federal programs delivering services to the public rely on computer systems still in need of work, according to the OMB.
Three federal agencies the Labor, Agriculture and Health and Human Services departments partner with the states to deliver services through those 10 programs.
Last month, Mr. Horn said that some of those programs delivering services to the public were not ready because state and local partners had not completed work on their own computers, and that federal agencies were not to blame for delays in preparedness.
The programs in question include food stamps; child nutrition programs; aid to women, infants and children; Medicaid and Medicare; temporary aid for needy families; child support enforcement; the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program; child care; child welfare; and unemployment insurance.
Mr. Horn said yesterday there are 15 programs with computer systems that still need work. He added student aid, Indian health services, maritime safety, public housing, and food safety and inspection programs to the list.
Contingency plans are in place to ensure that computer problems don’t interrupt services to people, the OMB reported.
The OMB also said 222 of 233 D.C. computer systems still are not year-2000 compliant.
The noncomplying computer systems are used by three D.C. agencies the Department of Employment Services; the District of Columbia Public Benefit Corporation, which operates D.C. General Hospital; and the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs.
The OMB reported that even though the District is late by technology standards, it expects to finish year-2000-related work this month.
The federal government earned a final grade of B-plus from Mr. Horn.
Mr. Horn said last month the Departments of Defense, Justice, Treasury, and Health and Human Services still had mission-critical computer systems to fix. The Justice Department was least prepared, with three computer systems still in need of work, and Mr. Horn gave the department a grade of D, the lowest grade given to any agency.
The year-2000 computer problem stems from a cost-saving shortcut years ago in which software programmers devoted only two spaces in a date field to designate the year. That older software assumes the year always will begin with the digits “19.”
If technicians don’t reprogram affected systems and replace calendar-sensitive computer chips embedded some equipment they could shut down or malfunction when they “read” the digits “00” as meaning 1900 and not 2000.

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