Year 2000 Fix on Schedule

nferris@govexec.com

In an initial report on agencies' progress in getting their computer systems ready for the year 2000, the Office of Management and Budget has told Congress that no agency reported being behind schedule.

The OMB report to Congress also said only 3 percent of agencies' systems have yet to be evaluated for year 2000 readiness, and 21 percent of systems already are year 2000-ready. Agencies reported to OMB that they have 7,649 mission-critical information systems and estimated they will spend $2.8 billion to fix the year 2000 problem.

Among individual agencies, the Social Security Administration is the clear leader, with 71 percent of its systems needing no further repairs. Next comes the Environmental Protection Agency, with 46 percent of its systems already compliant.

"Getting Federal Computers Ready for 2000: Progress Report" is OMB's first quarterly report based on agencies' reports to the White House. It shows that 17 percent of the necessary repair work has been done. Of the systems inventory, more than 15 percent will be retired or replaced altogether, instead of being repaired. The total inventory of 7,649 does not include 29,139 software modules reported by Social Security.

The report calls the progress as of May 15 "a good start" but notes pointedly that 5,430 essential systems remain to be fixed. It says the governmentwide cost estimate continues to climb as agencies get a better handle on the problem.

The problem goes back to the early days of computing, when programmers began to use two-digit entries to refer to years such as "68." It was understood that all years began with "19." With the century change, older systems will mistake the date unless their programs are updated. Modifying old software is a labor-intensive and sometimes difficult job.

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