Chief of House Y2K panel pledges funds

The newly appointed chairman of a House task force on the year 2000 computer problem pledged Monday that Congress will provide the executive branch with all the money it needs to prepare federal computer systems for the century change.

Rep. Steve Horn, R-Calif., told a Clinton administration official that the House leadership is committed to setting aside billions of dollars in emergency funding for Y2K computer fixes.

"We don't intend to deny you one penny," Horn said to G. Edward DeSeve, acting deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget at a hearing. "You're going to get every dime you need."

DeSeve said he was concerned that the House might deny the executive branch about $4 billion in emergency funding for the Y2K problem originally included in the Defense and Treasury-General Government appropriations bills. But Horn assured DeSeve that House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., is "very determined" to make that money available to agencies.

The administration expects to spend $5 billion from 1996 to 2000 on year 2000 conversions. Still, DeSeve said the government could use a reserve of funds just in case problems arise.

"As we learn more about how to address this problem, we expect that ensuring governmentwide compliance will require flexibility to respond to unanticipated requirements," DeSeve said.

On Friday, Gingrich appointed Horn and Rep. Connie Morella, R-Md., as co-chairs of a year 2000 task force. In April, the Senate set up a similar task force, led by Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah.

Horn is the chairman of the Government Reform and Oversight Committee's Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology. Morella heads the Science Committee's Technology Subcommittee. Horn has been grading federal agencies' progress on year 2000 fixes, most recently issuing an F to the executive branch for not moving fast enough on the problem. In January, Morella called on President Clinton to provide stronger leadership on Y2K awareness.

The emergency funding debate comes up as more agencies are moving into the testing phase of year 2000 conversions. The testing, or validation, phase, consumes between 50 and 70 percent of the Y2K fixing process, the General Accounting Office estimates. GAO has created a testing guide (GAO/AIMD-10.1.21) to help agencies complete the validation phase. GAO year 2000 guidance is available on the agency's Web site.

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