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Summary and Comments

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Category: 

Government

Date: 

1997-08-11 10:54:46

Subject: 

GAO Warns of Major High Risk Areas

  Link:

http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/hr97009.txt

Comment: 

The General Accoiunting Office reported in February, 1997, regarding y2k problem areas in the U.S. government. This was part of a long report on numerous high risk areas for the government. The report said: "Ensuring that systems are Year 2000 compliant represents the widest-scale system and software conversion effort ever attempted" (p. 15)

Note also: "Social Security Administration's disability insurance process could experience major disruptions because the interface with various state systems fails, thereby causing delays and interruptions in disability payments to citizens" (p. 15). In other words, if all of the states' welfare division computers aren't compliant -- and none is today -- this could infect SSA's system.

This is THE y2k problem: in order to fix anything securely, you have to fix everyting, and then make sure it all fits together.

Here are excerpts from the GAO report (pp. 14-16):

* * * * * * * *

Unless this problem is resolved ahead of time, widespread operational and financial impacts could affect federal, state, and local governments; foreign governments; and private-sector organizations worldwide. At the federal level, scenarios like these are possible:

-- IRS' tax systems could be unable to process returns, which in turn could jeopardize the collection of revenue and the entire tax processing system.

-- Payments to veterans with service-connected disabilities could be severely delayed because Veterans Affairs' compensation and pension system either halts or produces checks that are so erroneous that the system must be shut down and the checks processed manually.

-- Social Security Administration's disability insurance process could experience major disruptions because the interface with various state systems fails, thereby causing delays and interruptions in disability payments to citizens.

-- Federal systems used to track student education loans could produce erroneous information on loan status, such as indicating that an unpaid loan had been satisfied. . . .

Other problems are just beginning to show up. Recently, a Defense Logistics Agency system marked 3-year contracts as delinquent even though they had not yet been let. Defense has also uncovered date-related problems in its Space Defense Operations Center involving a system that supports its Integrated Tactical Warning and Attack Assessment community. Testing revealed 10 date-related discrepancies that would have caused a significant operational impact.

Other federal agencies face similar operational risks and impacts. Resolving the date problem will involve extensive, resource-intensive efforts due to the large scale of many federal systems and the numerous dependencies and interactions they often have with systems of both private-sector organizations and state agencies.

To complicate matters further, many government computer systems were originally designed and developed 20 to 25 years ago, are poorly documented, and use a wide variety of computer languages--many of which are old or obsolete. The systems consist of tens or hundreds of computer programs, each with thousands, tens of thousands, or even millions of lines of code, which must be examined for date problems. Moreover, the government's computer systems, like private sector systems, have numerous components--hardware, firmware, operating systems, communications applications, and database software--that are affected by the date problem. . . .

With the year 2000 less than 3 years away, much work must be done, and done quickly. Ensuring that systems are Year 2000 compliant represents the widest-scale system and software conversion effort ever attempted. Agencies must immediately assess their Year 2000 risk exposure, and plan and budget for achieving Year 2000 compliance for all of their mission critical systems. This will involve identifying and analyzing mission-critical computer systems, developing date conversion strategies and plans, and dedicating sufficient resources to convert the computer systems by early 1999 in order to allow 1 year for additional testing and error correction. Agencies will also need to develop contingency plans for those systems that they are unable to change in time.

Link: 

http://www.gao.gov/highrisk/hr97009.txt

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