Year 2000 Clock Ticking

Any federal agency that hasn't begun year 2000 repairs to its computer systems by early 1998 should expect to do without some systems, one industry expert says.

After the next few months, it will be too late to get started on projects that already are proving more time-consuming and expensive than expected, according to Patricia P. Bennis, vice president of DynCorp, a professional services company in Fairfax, Va. "What [system] failures can you live with? It's time to start talking in those terms," she told a group of reporters.

Most federal contractors still can take on new projects to fix year 2000 problems, Bennis said, but they are experiencing personnel shortages. "It is a seller's market in terms of IT labor right now," she said. Although some federal agencies are resisting increases in contract labor rates, they will have to bite the bullet if they want help, she added.

Many agencies are finding it hard to complete the final phase, testing, Bennis warned. "Everyone is underestimating this part of it," she said, and they could find testing amounts to more than 75 percent of the effort. The testing phase not only includes initial testing, but fixing problems that show up and then re-testing. Besides personnel shortages, Bennis predicted shortages of computer capacity for testing newly repaired software.

She also advised agencies not to overlook the problems associated with microprocessors embedded in other kinds of devices, such as monitoring systems, electric meters, fire suppressant systems and time locks. "They are behind the curve everywhere on that issue," she said. Many of these systems are programmed to be maintained at certain intervals and will shut down if there is date uncertainty.

The year 2000 problem stems from the fact that until recently computers often were programmed to use two-digit years in dates and assume that the missing digits were "19." Agencies have been fixing century-related date problems for several years as they arise, but such unsystematic efforts are likely to overlook some critical instances where computer operations will be affected.

Bennis said she and her colleagues still are encountering managers who deny that there is a year 2000 problem, but the first of many damage suits alleging system failure because of a date problem already has been filed, and many more will follow. She estimated that the software clean-up will take another five years--well into the new century.

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.