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1998-06-03 08:30:27


Congressman Horn Hands out an "F" to the U.S. Government



Congressman Stephen Horn's quarterly report card is getting more and more media attention.

This time, the government gets an "F." Things are getting worse.

* * * * * * * *

June 2, 1998


WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Representative Stephen Horn, R-CA, Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology, today released grades on the Federal Government’s progress toward solving the Year 2000 computer problem.

Each of the Government’s 24 largest departments and agencies received a grade primarily on the basis of when its mission-critical computer systems will become Year-2000 compliant. Four additional criteria are used in grading: contingency planning, telecommunication systems, embedded microchips, and external data exchanges (when entities share data, such as one bank clearing a check from another bank). The grades are based on quarterly reporting data from the agencies themselves as well as investigative work by the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology and the General Accounting Office. Mr. Horn made the following statement upon releasing the grades:

"About two weeks ago, a single communications satellite spun out of control. For the next couple of days, 90 percent of all pagers in the United States were useless, many television stations had nothing to broadcast, several news wires failed, and gasoline stations, banks, and retail stores that use small satellite dishes found themselves in the dark. All this resulted from the failure of just one satellite. It was a timely reminder of what is really at stake in the smooth functioning of technology—a tiny hint of what the Year 2000 could bring. With Federal Y2K efforts cast in this urgent light, we turn to the latest data on Federal preparations.

"Overall, the Federal Government earned an ‘F.’ Underlying this dismal grade is a disturbing slow-down in the Government’s rate of progress. For the quarter ending February 15, the Government brought mission-critical systems into compliance at a rate of 9.4 percent; for the quarter that ended May 15, the rate of progress slowed to 7.9 percent. This would be discouraging in any context. Less than a year before the March 1999 deadline for Y2K repairs, a reduction in productivity is deeply troubling. This trend must be reversed.

"Specific agency grades raise further concerns. The Department of Defense earned a ‘D’ and is still not on track to complete Y2K compliance efforts until two years after the date change. "The Department of Transportation merited an ‘F.’ This grade includes the Federal Aviation Administration, which provides crucial services to the flying public. Without dramatic improvements, the Nation’s air traffic could face serious disruptions for an extended period after December 31, 1999. The Department of Health and Human Services also earned an ‘F.’ The Medicare program, among others, depends on the smooth functioning of its computer systems.

"At the other end of the curve, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is a model for all agencies. SSA earned an ‘A+’ this quarter by achieving 92 percent compliance and by paying close attention to two secondary areas: contingency planning and external data exchanges. SSA also deserves credit for actively assisting other agencies in their Year 2000 efforts. We are counting on more of this coordination and teamwork over the next 18 months.

"I noted last quarter that SSA’s outstanding performance may be for naught: Social Security checks are actually issued by the Treasury Department’s Financial Management Service (FMS). This is a potential bottleneck of dramatic proportions. The Treasury Department earned a ‘C’ this quarter, held back by a dismal performance by FMS. Despite urgent calls for progress in March, FMS’s accomplishments over the last three months have been far from reassuring. We must have action on this urgent problem.

With January 1, 2000 a year and a half away, we must not panic. The President and his administration must set priorities if the conversion is to be successful. We must not become discouraged by the work that still remains. This is the time to focus, to redouble our efforts, and to move aggressively forward.

As we have urged before, the President must use the bully pulpit and inform the people of this Nation. Now is the time for the President to designate the Year 2000 problem as a national priority.


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