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1998-02-28 08:32:21


IRS PC'S: Not Likely to be Fixed



Arthur Gross resigned (or was terminated, so to speak) in early February. He was the Chief Information Officer of the IRS -- the head honcho over the computers. He had made it clear that the IRS system is a disaster, with or without y2k.

Now, John Yost, who is the IRS official who oversees the y2k repair, has told Congress that the repair job is as good as done. Except for the PC's. The IRS doesn't have the software to fix them. They've ordered it. Just be patient.

So, an organization that did not know a year ago whether it had 40 million lines of code, or 70 million, or 100 million, now tells Congress that its mainframes are just about compliant. It has finished the assessment phase. It is into code repair. This is miraculous.

But what about the PC's that feed data into the mainframes? It's "Retry, Fail, Abort."

Then there is testing. The state of California's California White Paper estimates that testing constitutes 40% of a y2k repair project. Some place it as high as 70%. Mr. Yost did not mention testing. He promised only that the code repair phase would be finished, except for PC's, in January, 1999. But the IRS begins to deal with estimated taxes and withholding for 2000 in 1999. When does the IRS plan to test the repaired code? I can guess his response: "Picky, picky, picky."

The U.S. Treasury is not compliant, either. You know: T-bills, T-bonds, that sort of thing. This presumably includes the telecommunications software that runs the IRS and Treasury.

There are some choice items in this report. Here is my favorite. It incarnates the heart, mind, and soul of every "no problem" assurance of every PR flak on earth regarding the Year 2000 Problem:

"Yost also said taxpayers will not be affected if the IRS's systems are not fully compliant by 2000, because the agency's operating systems would either lock up or the agency would shut them down."

This is from TECH WEB NEWS (Feb. 27).

* * * * * * *

The Internal Revenue Service's effort to prepare its mainframes and software for the year 2000 is on schedule, but the agency's desktop PCs present a major problem, according to the official in charge of the project.

The software needed to fix the date on the PCs isn't available yet, said John Yost, director of the IRS's year 2000 Project. "It will be a major logistics effort when we get it," he said.

A House of Representatives aide working on the issue who requested anonymity disputed Yost's view, saying the agency will miss its conversion goal "by a lot." . . .

About 40 percent of the Treasury Department's computers and software systems won't be ready for the date change, and the IRS is further behind than the rest of the Treasury.

But Yost claims the IRS has taken care of the largest piece of the its programs. The agency's 88,000 computer programs have been assessed, and 13,000 of those were already retired. Of the 75,000 remaining, 40,000 are now year 2000-compliant, Yost said. The remaining 35,000 are scheduled to be upgraded by January 1999. . . .

If glitches occur when 2000 arrives, "we would just turn the problem systems off and run in a more limited environment," Yost said. In other words, the IRS does not have an emergency plan. "As long as we stay on target," Yost insisted, "we're not going to create a specific contingency plan."

Yost also said taxpayers will not be affected if the IRS's systems are not fully compliant by 2000, because the agency's operating systems would either lock up or the agency would shut them down.


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