Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Additional Work Remains to Ensure Delivery of Critical Services

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-04-13.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Subcommittee on Government Management,
                          Information and Technology, Committee on Government
                          Reform, and the Subcommittee on Technology, Committee
                          on Science, House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
1 p.m.
                          YEAR 2000 COMPUTING
April 13, 1999            CRISIS

                          Additional Work Remains
                          to Ensure Delivery of
                          Critical Services
                          Statement of Joel C. Willemssen
                          Director, Civil Agencies Information Systems
                          Accounting and Information Management Division

                    Mr. Chairman, Ms. Chairwoman, and Members of the Subcommittees:

                    I am pleased to appear today to discuss progress being made in addressing
                    the Year 2000 computing challenge and to outline actions needed to ensure
                    a smooth conversion to the next century. The federal government--with its
                    widespread dependence on large-scale, complex computer systems to
                    deliver vital public services and carry out its massive operations--faces an
                    especially enormous and difficult task. Unless adequately confronted, Year
                    2000 computing problems could lead to serious disruptions in key federal
                    operations, ranging from national defense to benefits payments to air
                    traffic management.

                    Consequently, in February 1997, we designated the Year 2000 computing
                    problem as a high-risk area. Our purpose was to stimulate greater attention
                    to assessing the government's exposure to Year 2000 risks and to
                    strengthen planning for achieving Year 2000 compliance for mission-critical
                    systems. Fortunately, the past 2 years have witnessed marked
                    improvement in preparedness as the government has revised and
                    intensified its approach to this problem.

                    Today, I will discuss the status of the federal government’s remediation of
                    its mission-critical systems. In addition, I will lay out some of the
                    remaining challenges facing the government in ensuring the continuity of
                    business operations, namely end-to-end testing and business continuity and
                    contingency planning, and the Office of Management and Budget’s (OMB)
                    efforts to identify the government’s high-impact programs. Finally, I will
                    discuss the readiness of state systems that are essential to the delivery of
                    federal human services programs.

Improvements Made   Addressing the Year 2000 problem is a tremendous challenge for the federal
                    government. To meet this challenge and monitor individual agency efforts,
But Much Work       OMB directed the major departments and agencies to submit quarterly
Remains             reports on their progress, beginning May 15, 1997. These reports contain
                    information on where agencies stand with respect to the assessment,
                    renovation, validation, and implementation of mission-critical systems, as
                    well as other management information on items such as business
                    continuity and contingency plans and costs.

                    The federal government's most recent reports show improvement in
                    addressing the Year 2000 problem. While much work remains, the federal
                    government has significantly increased the percentage of mission-critical

                    Page 1                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
systems that are reported to be Year 2000 compliant, as figure 1 illustrates.
In particular, while the federal government did not meet its goal of having
all mission-critical systems compliant by March 1999, 92 percent of these
systems were reported to have met this goal.

Figure 1: Mission-Critical Systems Reported Year 2000 Compliant, May 1997-March

Source: May 1997 through February 1999 data are from the OMB quarterly reports. The March 1999
data are from the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion and OMB.

While this progress is notable, 11 agencies did not meet OMB’s deadline for
all of their mission-critical systems.1 Some of the systems that were not yet
compliant support vital government functions. For example, many of the
Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) systems were not compliant as of
the March deadline. As we testified last month, several of these systems
provide critical functions, ranging from communications to radar

  The 11 agencies were the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Defense, Energy, Health and Human
Services, Justice, State, Transportation, and the Treasury and the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

Page 2                                                                      GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
processing to weather surveillance.2 Among other systems that did not
meet the March 1999 deadline are those operated by Health Care Financing
Administration (HCFA) contractors. As we testified in February 1999,
these systems are critical to processing Medicare claims.3

Additionally, not all systems have undergone an independent verification
and validation process. For example, the Environmental Protection
Agency and the Department of the Interior reported that 57 and 3 of their
systems, respectively, deemed compliant were still undergoing
independent verification and validation.

In some cases, independent verification and validation of compliant
systems have found serious problems. For example, as we testified before
you this February,4 none of HCFA’s 54 external mission-critical systems
reported by the Department of Health and Human Services as compliant as
of December 31, 1998, was Year 2000 ready, based on serious qualifications
identified by the independent verification and validation contractor. Other
examples have been cited in agency quarterly reports.

• In February 1999, the Department of Commerce reclassified a system
  from compliant to noncompliant because an independent verification
  and validation contractor had concerns about some of the commercial-
  off-the-shelf software used in the system and wanted to review
  additional test data.
• In February 1999, the Environmental Protection Agency reported that its
  independent third-party review process found a Year 2000 error in a
  system that was later repaired, tested, and returned to production.
• In November 1998, the Department of Health and Human Services
  reported that it removed four Indian Health Service systems from
  compliant status because an independent verification and validation
  contractor found that their data exchanges were not compliant.

 Year 2000 Computing Crisis: FAA Is Making Progress But Important Challenges Remain (GAO/T-
AIMD/RCED-99-118, March 15, 1999).

3Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Medicare and the Delivery of Health Services Are at Risk (GAO/T-AIMD-
99-89, February 24, 1999) and Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Readiness Status of the Department of
Health and Human Services (GAO/T-AIMD-99-92, February 26, 1999).

    GAO/T-AIMD-99-92, February 26, 1999.

Page 3                                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
Much Work Remains to   Achieving individual system compliance, although important, does not
                       necessarily ensure that a business function will continue to operate
Ensure Continuity of   through the change of century--the ultimate goal of Year 2000 efforts. Key
Federal Operations     actions, such as end-to-end testing and business continuity and
                       contingency planning, are vital to ensuring that this goal is met. Further,
                       OMB has recently taken action on our April 1998 recommendation to set
                       governmentwide priorities and has identified the government’s high-impact
                       programs.5 This is an excellent step toward ensuring the continuing
                       delivery of vital services.

End-to-End Testing     To ensure that their mission-critical systems can reliably exchange data
                       with other systems and that they are protected from errors that can be
                       introduced by external systems, agencies must perform end-to-end testing
                       of their critical core business processes. The purpose of end-to-end testing
                       is to verify that a defined set of interrelated systems, which collectively
                       support an organizational core business area or function, will work as
                       intended in an operational environment. In the case of the year 2000, many
                       systems in the end-to-end chain will have been modified or replaced. As a
                       result, the scope and complexity of testing--and its importance--are
                       dramatically increased, as is the difficulty of isolating, identifying, and
                       correcting problems. Consequently, agencies must work early and
                       continually with their data exchange partners to plan and execute effective
                       end-to-end tests (our Year 2000 testing guide sets forth a structured
                       approach to testing, including end-to-end testing).6

                       In January 1999, we testified that with the time available for end-to-end
                       testing diminishing, OMB should consider, for the government’s most
                       critical functions, setting target dates, and having agencies report against
                       them, for the development of end-to-end test plans, the establishment of
                       test schedules, and the completion of the tests.7 On March 31, OMB and
                       the Chair of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion announced
                       that one of the key priorities that federal agencies will be pursuing during
                       the rest of 1999 will be cooperative efforts regarding end-to-end testing to

                        Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Potential for Widespread Disruption Call for Strong Leadership and
                       Partnerships (GAO/AIMD-98-85, April 30, 1998).

                       6Year   2000 Computing Crisis: A Testing Guide (GAO/AIMD-10.1.21, November 1998).

                        Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Readiness Improving, But Much Work Remains to Avoid Major
                       Disruptions (GAO/T-AIMD-99-50, January 20, 1999).

                       Page 4                                                                        GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
                          demonstrate the Year 2000 readiness of federal programs with states and
                          other partners critical to the administration of those programs.

                          We are also encouraged by some agencies’ recent actions. For example, we
                          testified this March, that the Department of Defense’s Principal Staff
                          Assistants are planning to conduct end-to-end tests to ensure that systems
                          that collectively support core business areas can interoperate as intended
                          in a Year 2000 environment.8 Further, our March 1999 testimony9 found
                          that FAA had addressed our prior concerns with the lack of detail in its
                          draft end-to-end test program plan and had developed a detailed end-to-end
                          testing strategy and plans.10

Business Continuity and   Business continuity and contingency plans are essential. Without such
Contingency Plans         plans, when unpredicted failures occur, agencies will not have well-defined
                          responses and may not have enough time to develop and test alternatives.
                          Federal agencies depend on data provided by their business partners as
                          well as on services provided by the public infrastructure (e.g., power,
                          water, transportation, and voice and data telecommunications). One weak
                          link anywhere in the chain of critical dependencies can cause major
                          disruptions to business operations. Given these interdependencies, it is
                          imperative that contingency plans be developed for all critical core
                          business processes and supporting systems, regardless of whether these
                          systems are owned by the agency. Accordingly, in April 1998, we
                          recommended that the Council require agencies to develop contingency
                          plans for all critical core business processes. 11

                          OMB has clarified its contingency plan instructions and, along with the
                          Chief Information Officers Council, has adopted our business continuity
                          and contingency planning guide.12 In particular, on January 26, 1999, OMB
                          called on federal agencies to identify and report on the high-level core

                           Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Defense Has Made Progress, But Additional Management Controls Are
                          Needed (GAO/T-AIMD-99-101, March 2, 1999).

                              GAO/T-AIMD/RCED-99-118, March 15, 1999.
                             FAA Systems: Serious Challenges Remain in Resolving Year 2000 and Computer Security Problems
                          (GAO/T-AIMD-98-251, August 6, 1998).

                          11GAO/AIMD-98-85,    April 30, 1998.

                           Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Business Continuity and Contingency Planning (GAO/AIMD-10.1.19,
                          August 1998).

                          Page 5                                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
business functions that are to be addressed in their business continuity and
contingency plans as well as to provide key milestones for development
and testing of business continuity and contingency plans in their February
1999 quarterly reports. Accordingly, in their February 1999 reports, almost
all agencies listed their high-level core business functions. Indeed, major
departments and agencies listed over 400 core business functions. For
example, the Department of Veterans Affairs classified its core business
functions into two critical areas: benefits delivery (six business lines
supported this area) and health care.

Our review of the 24 major departments’ and agencies’ February 1999
quarterly reports found that business continuity and contingency planning
was generally well underway. However, we also found cases in which
agencies (1) were in the early stages of business continuity and
contingency planning, (2) did not indicate when they planned to complete
and/or test their plan, (3) did not intend to complete their plans until after
April 1999, or (4) did not intend to finish testing the plans until after
September 1999. In January 1999, we testified before you that OMB could
consider setting a target date, such as April 30, 1999, for the completion of
business continuity and contingency plans, and require agencies to report
on their progress against this milestone.13 This would encourage agencies
to expeditiously develop and finalize their plans and would provide the
President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion and OMB with more complete
information on agencies’ status on this critical issue. To provide assurance
that agencies’ business continuity and contingency plans will work if they
are needed, we also suggested that OMB may want to consider requiring
agencies to test their business continuity strategy and set a target date,
such as September 30, 1999, for the completion of this validation.

On March 31, OMB and the Chair of the President’s Council on Year 2000
Conversion announced that completing and testing business continuity and
contingency plans as insurance against disruptions to federal service
delivery and operations from Year 2000-related failures will be one of the
key priorities that federal agencies will be pursuing through the rest of
1999. OMB also announced that it planned to ask agencies to submit their
business continuity and contingency plans in June. In addition to this
action, we would encourage OMB to implement the suggestion that we
made in our January 20 testimony and establish a target date for the
validation of these business continuity and contingency plans.

     GAO/T-AIMD-99-50, January 20, 1999.

Page 6                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
Recent OMB Action Could     While individual agencies have been identifying and remediating mission-
Help Ensure Business        critical systems, the government’s future actions need to be focused on its
                            high-priority programs and ensuring the continuity of these programs,
Continuity of High-Impact
                            including the continuity of federal programs that are administered by
Programs                    states. Accordingly, governmentwide priorities need to be based on such
                            criteria as the potential for adverse health and safety effects, adverse
                            financial effects on American citizens, detrimental effects on national
                            security, and adverse economic consequences. In April 1998, we
                            recommended that the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion
                            establish governmentwide priorities and ensure that agencies set
                            agencywide priorities.14

                            On March 26, 1999, OMB implemented our recommendation by issuing a
                            memorandum to federal agencies designating lead agencies for the
                            government’s 42 high-impact programs (e.g., food stamps, Medicare, and
                            federal electric power generation and delivery); the attachment contains a
                            list of these programs and lead agencies. For each program, the lead
                            agency was charged with identifying to OMB the partners integral to
                            program delivery; taking a leadership role in convening those partners;
                            assuring that each partner has an adequate Year 2000 plan and, if not,
                            helping each partner without one; and developing a plan to ensure that the
                            program will operate effectively. According to OMB, such a plan might
                            include testing data exchanges across partners, developing complementary
                            business continuity and contingency plans, sharing key information on
                            readiness with other partners and the public, and taking other steps
                            necessary to ensure that the program will work. OMB directed the lead
                            agencies to provide a schedule and milestones of key activities in the plan
                            by April 15. OMB also asked agencies to provide monthly progress reports.

States’ Systems’            OMB’s March 1999 memorandum identifies several high-impact state-
                            administered programs, such as Food Stamps, Medicaid, and Temporary
Readiness Essential to      Assistance for Needy Families, in which both the federal government and
the Delivery of Federal     the states have a huge vested interest, both financial and social. Reports by
                            us and the federal lead agencies have indicated the need for the lead federal
Human Services              agency to work together with the states to ensure that programs vital to so
Programs                    many individuals can continue through the change of century.

                                 GAO/AIMD-98-85, April 30, 1998.

                            Page 7                                                      GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
                                           As we reported in November 1998, many systems that support such human
                                           services programs were at risk and much work remained to ensure
                                           continued services.15 In February 1999, we testified that while some
                                           progress had been achieved, many states’ systems have been reported to be
                                           at risk and were not scheduled to become compliant until the last half of
                                           1999.16 Further, progress reports had been based largely on state self-
                                           reporting, which, upon site visits, has occasionally been found to be overly
                                           optimistic. Accordingly, we concluded that given these risks, business
                                           continuity and contingency planning was even more important in ensuring
                                           continuity of program operations and benefits in the event of systems

                                           In January 1999, OMB implemented a requirement that federal oversight
                                           agencies include the status of selected state human services systems in
                                           their quarterly reports. Specifically, OMB requested that the agencies
                                           describe actions to help ensure that federally supported, state-run
                                           programs will be able to provide services and benefits. OMB further asked
                                           that agencies report the date when each state’s systems will be Year 2000
                                           compliant. Table 1 summarizes the information gathered by the
                                           Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and Labor on how
                                           many state-level organizations are compliant or when in 1999 they planned
                                           to be compliant.

Table 1: Reported State-Level Readiness for Key Federally Supported Programsa

                                                                     January-         April-            July-        October-           No
Program                                             Compliant          March          June         September        December         report
Food Stamps                                                 15              10            12                  8                5          0
Unemployment Insurance                                      21                6           13                  8                1          1
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families                      7                3           12                  4                2          22
Medicaid--Integrated Eligibility System                      3                1            8                  5                1          33
Medicaid--Management Information Systems                     7                7           14                 12                2           9
Child Support                                                4                6           10                  3                2         25

                                           15Year2000 Computing Crisis: Readiness of State Automated Systems to Support Federal Welfare
                                           Programs (GAO/AIMD-99-28, November 6, 1998).

                                            Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Readiness of State Automated Systems That Support Federal Human
                                           Services Programs (GAO/T-AIMD-99-91, February 24, 1999).

                                           Page 8                                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
                                                          January-           April-            July-         October-            No
Program                                   Compliant         March            June         September         December          report
Child Care                                        4                 3             8                   5                2          31
Child Welfare                                     6                 3             8                   5                2          27
Women, Infants, and Children                     24                 8             6                   6                6            0
                               aAccording   to OMB, the Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services were still
                               collecting information from the states on the status of the Child Nutrition Program and the Low Income
                               Home Energy Assistance Program, respectively.
                               Note: OMB reported the status of 5 programs for 50 state-level organizations (Food Stamps,
                               Unemployment Insurance, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Child Support, and Women,
                               Infants, and Children). The status of 2 programs was provided for 51 state-level organizations
                               (Medicaid and Child Welfare). The status of Child Care was provided for 53 state-level organizations.
                               Source: Progress on Year 2000 Conversion, (OMB, data received February 12, 1999, issued on
                               March 18, 1999).

                               This table illustrates the need for federal/state partnerships to ensure the
                               continuity of these vital services, since a considerable number of state-level
                               organizations are not due to be compliant until the last half of 1999, and the
                               agencies have not received reports from many states. Such partnerships
                               could include the coordination of federal and state business continuity and
                               contingency plans for human resources programs.

                               One agency that could serve as a model to other federal agencies in
                               working with state partners is the Social Security Administration, which
                               relies on states to help process claims under its disability insurance
                               program. In October 1997, we made recommendations to the Social
                               Security Administration to improve its monitoring and oversight of state
                               disability determination services and to develop contingency plans that
                               consider the disability claims processing functions within state disability
                               determination services systems.17 The Social Security Administration
                               agreed with these recommendations and, as we testified this February, has
                               taken several actions.18 For example, it established a full-time disability
                               determination services project team, designating project managers and
                               coordinators and requesting biweekly status reports. The agency also
                               obtained from each state disability determination service (1) a plan
                               specifying the specific milestones, resources, and schedules for completing
                               Year 2000 conversion tasks and (2) contingency plans. Such an approach

                                      Security Administration: Significant Progress Made in Year 2000 Effort, But Key Risks Remain
                               (GAO/AIMD-98-6, October 22, 1997).

                                Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Update on the Readiness of the Social Security Administration (GAO/T-
                               AIMD-99-90, February 24, 1999).

                               Page 9                                                                         GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
could be valuable to other federal agencies in helping ensure the continued
delivery of services.

In addition to the state systems that support federal programs, another
important aspect of the federal government’s Year 2000 efforts with the
states are data exchanges. For example, the Social Security Administration
exchanges data files with the states to determine the eligibility of disabled
persons for disability payments and the National Highway Traffic Safety
Administration provides states with information needed for drivers
registration. As part of addressing this issue, the General Services
Administration is collecting information from federal agencies and the
states on the status of their exchanges through a secured Internet World
Wide Web site. According to an official at the General Services
Administration, 70 percent of federal/state data exchanges are Year 2000
compliant. However, this official would not provide us with supporting
documentation for this statement nor would the General Services
Administration allow us access to its database. Accordingly, we could not
verify the status of federal/state data exchanges.

In conclusion, it is clear that much progress has been made in addressing
the Year 2000 challenge. It is equally clear, however, that much additional
work remains to ensure the continued delivery of vital services. The
federal government and its partners must work diligently and cooperatively
so that such services are not disrupted.

Mr. Chairman, Ms. Chairwoman, this concludes my statement. I will be
pleased to respond to any questions that you or other members of the
Subcommittees may have at this time.

Page 10                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-143

Federal High-Impact Programs and Lead

Agency                                          Program
Department of Agriculture                       Child Nutrition Programs
Department of Agriculture                       Food Safety Inspection
Department of Agriculture                       Food Stamps
Department of Agriculture                       Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
Department of Commerce                          Patent and trademark processing
Department of Commerce                          Weather Service
Department of Defense                           Military Hospitals
Department of Defense                           Military Retirement
Department of Education                         Student Aid
Department of Energy                            Federal electric power generation and delivery
Department of Health and Human Services         Child Care
Department of Health and Human Services         Child Support Enforcement
Department of Health and Human Services         Child Welfare
Department of Health and Human Services         Disease monitoring and the ability to issue warnings
Department of Health and Human Services         Indian Health Service
Department of Health and Human Services         Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
Department of Health and Human Services         Medicaid
Department of Health and Human Services         Medicare
Department of Health and Human Services         Organ Transplants
Department of Health and Human Services         Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Department of Housing and Urban Development     Housing loans (Government National Mortgage Association)
Department of Housing and Urban Development     Section 8 Rental Assistance
Department of Housing and Urban Development     Public Housing
Department of Housing and Urban Development     FHA Mortgage Insurance
Department of Housing and Urban Development     Community Development Block Grants
Department of the Interior                      Bureau of Indians Affairs programs
Department of Justice                           Federal Prisons
Department of Justice                           Immigration
Department of Labor                             Unemployment Insurance
Department of State                             Passport Applications and Processing
Department of Transportation                    Air Traffic Control system
Department of Transportation                    Maritime Search and Rescue
Department of the Treasury                      Cross-border Inspection Services
Department of Veterans Affairs                  Veterans’ Benefits
Department of Veterans Affairs                  Veterans’ Health Care
Federal Emergency Management Agency             Disaster Relief
Office of Personnel Management                  Federal Employee Health Benefits

                          Leter           Page 11                                                            GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
                                 Federal High-Impact Programs and Lead

Agency                                 Program
Office of Personnel Management         Federal Employee Life Insurance
Office of Personnel Management         Federal Employee Retirement Benefits
Railroad Retirement Board              Retired Rail Workers Benefits
Social Security Administration         Social Security Benefits
U.S. Postal Service                    Mail Service

(511750)                 Leter   Page 12                                      GAO/T-AIMD-99-143
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