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Bumps in Road to Year 2000?

Bumps in Road to Year 2000?

nferris@govexec.com

The administration will send Congress next week a "very sobering" report on federal agencies' progress in ensuring their information systems will operate in the new century, Office of Management and Budget officials said.

Sally Katzen, administrator of OMB's Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, told federal systems managers at a conference in Hershey, Pa., that the estimated costs of fixing year 2000 deficiencies are rising as the true dimensions of the problem become apparent. "Even for the best [agencies]," she said, "most of the work still remains to be done."

Katzen's office collects quarterly year 2000 status reports from the agencies and compiles a report for the White House and Congress. The last report, in June, showed that agencies generally were on schedule to get their systems fixed in time for the century change. Since then, Katzen said, agencies have learned more about what needs to be done.

"The agencies must be more aggressive in fixing the problem," she said. OMB will take "some additional steps" to make sure year 2000 repairs remain a high priority, Katzen added, giving no specifics. "There are no extensions of time," she said, and the problems must be fixed on schedule if the government is to stay operational.

Agencies' cost estimates for year 2000 work added up to $2.8 billion in June. Katzen indicated the new report will take that figure above the $3 billion mark. "It's not as if this were going to break the bank," she said, noting that the government normally would spend more than $75 billion on computer hardware, software and services over a three-year period.

Bruce McConnell, who heads OIRA's information technology branch, said at the same conference, "There are lots of lessons being learned" about preparing for the year 2000. "The only question is whether they're being learned quickly enough," he added.

The year 2000 issue stems from 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.

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