Year 2000 Computing Challenge: Status of Emergency and State and Local Law Enforcement Systems Is Still Unknown

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-04-29.

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

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology
                          Problem, U.S. Senate

For Release on Delivery

Expected at               YEAR 2000 COMPUTING
9:30 a.m.


April 29, 1999

                          Status of Emergency and
                          State and Local Law
                          Enforcement Systems Is
                          Still Unknown
                          Statement of Jack L. Brock, Jr.
                          Director, Governmentwide and Defense Information
                          Accounting and Information Management Division

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee:

Thank you for inviting me to discuss the impact of the Year 2000 computing

challenge on the nation’s emergency and state and local law enforcement

systems and our review of              the Department of Justice’s and the President’s

Council on Year 2000 Conversion’s efforts to facilitate remediation and

contingency planning and to gauge the Year 2000 readiness of these two

important sectors.

Briefly, we found the following.

•   Limited information is available about the Year 2000 status of 9-1-1 call

    answering sites throughout the nation, known as Public Safety

    Answering Points (PSAP). The Federal Emergency Management Agency

    (FEMA) in conjunction with the National Emergency Number
    Association          has surveyed 4,300 primary PSAPs on their Year 2000

    readiness; however, as of April 1999, only 18 percent responded.                               Of

    those that did respond, only 16 percent reported that their systems were

    compliant.       However, the majority of the rest of the respondents

    reported that they will be compliant by 2000.

•   Little is known about the status of state and local law enforcement

    agencies.      No assessment surveys have been conducted.                          Last week, the

    Chairman of the working group focusing on law enforcement for the

    President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion informed us that such an

    assessment would soon be initiated in cooperation with a follow-on

    FEMA assessment of emergency services.

•   Outreach efforts by FEMA, the Federal Communications Commission

    (FCC), the National Emergency Number Association, and other

    organizations have been fairly extensive, ranging from the development

    of contingency planning guidance to the hosting of forums for the 9-1-1

    community on meeting the Year 2000 challenge.

•   Outreach efforts by Justice generally have been targeted at raising

    awareness and, with the exception of those at the Bureau of Prisons,

    largely ad hoc in nature.

To prepare for this testimony, we reviewed the FCC’s March 1999 report on

Year 2000 readiness in the communications sector, transcripts of the FCC’s

emergency services forum held in November 1998, and the April 1999

  This is a trade association seeking to foster the technological advancement, availability, and
implementation of a common emergency telephone number system.

Page 1                                                                               GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
                        Network Reliability and Interoperability Council (NRIC)                            report on Public

                        Safety Answering Positions.              We reviewed test documentation prepared by

                        Bellcore and the Telco Year 2000 Forum to assess the scope of Year 2000

                        interoperability testing conducted on both the local public network in

                        general, and on the continued ability of this network to successfully

                        process 9-1-1 calls for emergency services.                  Further, we reviewed

                        information published on the Internet by manufacturers of computer

                        systems supporting 9-1-1 sites as well as by FCC, NRIC, FEMA, the

                        President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion, the National Emergency

                        Number Association, the International Association of Emergency

                        Managers, the National Emergency Management Association, the National

                        Association of Counties, the National Public Safety Telecommunications

                        Council, the State of Minnesota, and the State of Texas.                       We also toured

                        9-1-1 sites located in Arlington County and Fairfax County, Virginia, and we

                        interviewed members of the Telco Year 2000 Forum and staff at both

                        FEMA’s U.S. Fire Administration and the National Emergency Number


                        We also reviewed available outreach strategies and plans for the

                        Department of Justice and its component bureaus and documentation on

                        actual outreach activities that they have conducted.                      We discussed with

                        department and bureau officials their respective approaches to managing

                        outreach activities, including outreach goals.                   Additionally, we attended

                        meetings of the Police/Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice working group,

                        reviewed documents prepared by the working group, and conducted

                        interviews with the Chairman of the group.                    We performed our work in

                        March and April 1999 in accordance with generally accepted government

                        auditing standards.

Federal Efforts to      For the most part, responsibility for ensuring continuity of service for 9-1-1

Assess Continuity of
                        calls and law enforcement resides with thousands of state and local

                        jurisdictions.     Nevertheless, the success of these efforts is of great interest

9-1-1 and State/Local   at the national level as these services are critical to the safety and well-

Law Enforcement         being of individuals across the country.                 Thus, the lack of status

                        information has increased concern about which, if any, critical emergency

                        communications and law enforcement systems may not be compliant in


                          NRIC is a federal advisory committee that provides guidance to FCC on promoting the reliability of the
                        public switched network.

                        Page 2                                                                             GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
The President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion was established in part to

help provide leadership and work with state and local governments to

address the Year 2000 computing challenge.                   Last April, we recommended

that the Chairman of the Council develop a comprehensive picture of the

nation’s Year 2000 readiness, which would include identifying and assessing

the Year 2000 risks within the nation’s key economic sectors, including
those posed by the failure of critical infrastructure components.                          By

gathering basic information on Year 2000 status and impact on public well-

being, the Council would be better prepared to advise any necessary action

to mitigate risks.

In October 1998, the Council tasked each of its working groups to complete

sector assessments.         These assessments were to be based on an

assessment guide developed with input from GAO and were to be

conducted in conjunction with related umbrella groups and trade

associations.      The Council’s Emergency Services working group, which is

chaired by FEMA, was responsible for conducting the assessment of

emergency services, including 9-1-1 services.                 Because of the reliance of

9-1-1 services on the public switched network, this particular assessment

was also dependent on results of the assessment conducted by the

Telecommunications working group, chaired by FCC.                          The Council’s

Police/Public Safety/Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice working group,

chaired by the Department of Justice, was responsible for conducting the

assessment of state and local law enforcement agencies.

The first report summarizing the results of the Council’s assessments was

issued on January 7, 1999.           The Council’s second assessment report was
issued on April 21, 1999.         After the first report was issued, we testified                   that

while the study was a good step toward obtaining a picture of the nation’s

Year 2000 readiness, the picture remained substantially incomplete because

assessments were not available in many key areas, including 9-1-1 and fire

services.    Also, some surveys did not have a high response rate, calling into

question whether they accurately portrayed the readiness of the sector. We

stated that the Council needed to remain vigilant and closely monitor and

update the information in the sectors where information is available and

obtain information for those where it was not.

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

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

Page 3                                                                         GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
9-1-1 Services            9-1-1 is the standard telephone number most Americans dial to quickly

Year 2000 Readiness
                          obtain assistance from police, fire, or emergency medical service

                          providers.    When dialing 9-1-1, callers depend on the country’s

                          telecommunications infrastructure, a high degree of automation, and

                          emergency dispatchers to ensure that emergency personnel can be reached

                          when needed.

                          If Year 2000 issues are not adequately addressed, the response to an

                          emergency could be degraded.      Fortunately, a number of positive outreach

                          efforts have been undertaken to assist local governments as well as

                          telecommunications providers in preparing for the Year 2000.

                          Unfortunately, with less than 9 months remaining before the millennium,

                          the status of thousands of 9-1-1 answering sites is still largely unknown.

9-1-1 and the Year 2000   According to the FCC, about 90 percent of the population has access to

Problem                   9-1-1 service and uses it to place most of the nearly 110 million emergency

                          calls made in the United States each year. The remainder of the population,

                          without access to 9-1-1 service, dials an ordinary seven-digit telephone

                          number to contact emergency service providers.

                          The National Emergency Number Association estimates that there are

                          approximately 4,400 primary PSAPs operating nationwide.        These PSAPs,

                          in turn, may have one or more associated secondary PSAPs.       For example,

                          the city of Falls Church, Virginia, operates a PSAP that is secondary to

                          Arlington County’s primary PSAP.     9-1-1 calls originating in Falls Church

                          would be delivered to the primary PSAP in Arlington County.         Following

                          initial processing, that call would be forwarded for dispatch to the

                          secondary PSAP operated by Falls Church.

                          The 9-1-1 system is a multistep process that can vary from one PSAP to the

                          next.    However, 9-1-1 calls are initiated over the public switched network

                          and most calls are made using “enhanced” 9-1-1 service--that is, service that

                          uses automation to provide dispatchers with the address and telephone

                          number associated with the caller.

                          The following figure depicts a typical 9-1-1 call.

                          Page 4                                                        GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
Figure 1: Enhanced 9-1-1 Calling Process

                                           E911 Tandem Switch
                                            at telephone office

                                                                                         Public Safety Answering

                                                                                                  PSAP Common Equipment
                                                                           PBX                      Voice
                                                                          System                    Call

                                                                          Phone                     Phone
                                                                         Number                    Number
                                                                        Controller                 Display
          Telephone Company                                                                                  Call Taker
          Location Database                                              Address                  Address
                                                                        Controller                Display

                                            Source: Network Reliability and Interoperability Council.

                                            As the figure illustrates, the telecommunications component of the 9-1-1

                                            system includes the public switched network, the local telephone office,

                                            and one or more PSAPs.            A computer system at the local telephone office--

                                            called the E911 tandem switch--automatically routes incoming calls to the

                                            proper PSAP. At the PSAP, the call is recorded and information, such as the

                                            caller's location and directions on how to get there, is retrieved from a

                                            Page 5                                                             GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
                           database normally provided by a local telephone company called the

                           automatic location identification (ALI) database.    Other equipment

                           common to PSAPs are telephones, answering equipment, and personal


                           The systems used by PSAPs and supporting telecommunications networks

                           have processes such as day/time logging, call recording, computer aided

                           dispatch, and records management systems that could be disabled by a

                           Year 2000 failure.   Should Year 2000 disruptions impair either these date-

                           sensitive components of PSAP call-handling or other communications and

                           database services provided by the public network, the following could


                           •   If the automatic number identification (ANI) database computers fail,

                               9-1-1 calls would not be selectively routed to a PSAP for processing,

                               unless a default was established to route any call without ANI data to a

                               specific PSAP.   Depending on the service area, the loss of a 9-1-1 tandem

                               switch could affect more than one million access lines.

                           •   Also, if the automatic location identification database computers fail,

                               the 9-1-1 attendant would get a voice path but not receive location data

                               from the ALI database.   The operator would then have to get location

                               data from the 9-1-1 caller (which is routinely done with calls originating

                               on wireless telephones) who may be confused or anxious.

                           •   If the automatic call distributor fails, incoming calls would not

                               automatically be delivered to available call takers.

                           •   If a computer telephony integrated system (where the telephone has

                               been totally replaced by computer) fails, the 9-1-1 attendant would lose

                               all functionality and no calls would be received.

                           Another Year 2000-related problem is potential congestion in the public

                           switched network arising from individuals making 9-1-1 calls to simply test

                           the system.   According to the Network Reliability and Interoperability

                           Council, an increase in 9-1-1 traffic could result in callers getting circuit

                           busy signals, put on hold for long periods, or   disconnected.

Limited Information Is     Successfully completing a 9-1-1 call next January 1--and taking full

Available Concerning the   advantage of all the features of enhanced 9-1-1 service--is dependent on two

Status of Year 2000        major factors.   First, the ability of the public switched telecommunications

Readiness for 9-1-1
                           network to transmit the call and, second, the ability of the PSAP to process

                           the call.

                           Page 6                                                         GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
With respect to the public switched network, the Telco Year 2000 Forum on

Intra-Network Interoperability Testing, which is made up of local exchange

carriers representing 90 percent of all access lines in the nation, recently

conducted tests to determine whether the public switched network could

carry calls in a Year 2000 environment.     The tests were performed on 54

different configurations of central office equipment that included a

majority of the network components used in North America.          Only six Year

2000 problems were identified by the Telco Year 2000 Forum in over 1,900

test cases on these configurations, which involved 80 products from 20

different vendors.   Assuming these tests were carried out effectively, their

results provide some confidence that, if remediated, the public switched

network should continue to function into the new millenium with no major

service interruptions caused by Year 2000 dates.     However, these tests did

not focus specifically on 9-1-1 services and, as such, they did not test

numerous “back end” systems that a PSAP might use, such as computer-

aided dispatch systems, call logging systems, call recorders, and radios.

PSAP operators are responsible for ensuring that these systems operate

and interoperate properly after the date change.

The status of the ability of PSAP efforts to ensure that they can effectively

process 9-1-1 calls is less clear.   The Network Reliability and

Interoperability Council (NRIC) reports that major local telephone

companies have taken action to ensure that PSAP systems they provide to

their customers have been remediated.       However, as of April 16, 1999, only

18 percent of 4,300 PSAPs had responded to a readiness survey conducted

by FEMA and the National Emergency Number Association.             Of the 766

sites that did respond, only 16 percent reported that they were ready for the

Year 2000.   Another 70 percent of those responding reported that they will

be Year 2000 compliant in time for the millennium.     Because of the low

response rate, FEMA is planning to conduct telephone interviews with

those sites that did not respond to the initial survey.

NRIC developed its own assessment of PSAP Year 2000 readiness.          NRIC

estimated that at present, fewer than 10 percent of the nation’s PSAPs have

completed upgrades of the 9-1-1 call processing equipment.         However,

according to NRIC, many upgrades have been scheduled and should be

completed within the second and third quarters of this year.       NRIC’s

evaluation did not address the Year 2000 readiness of any of the other

equipment employed within the PSAPs that support call processing or

personnel dispatch.    The proper functioning of that equipment is the

responsibility of PSAP managers.

Page 7                                                        GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
Positive Outreach Efforts to   To help ensure that emergency services will be accessible after the century

Ensure 9-1-1 Year 2000         date change, many organizations are engaged in outreach activities to state

Readiness Are Underway         and local governments and even the telecommunications providers that

                               support networks critical to 9-1-1 calls.   For example:

                               •   In December 1998, FEMA included an informational Year 2000 brochure

                                   with a survey that was sent to primary answering points.   It also

                                   developed Year 2000 contingency and consequence management

                                   planning guidance that specifically identifies 9-1-1 systems as being at

                                   risk because of the Year 2000 problem.    This guidance was made

                                   available to state and local government emergency managers through a

                                   series of Year 2000 workshops held throughout the country.     The

                                   guidance was also presented in a multistate teleconference of state Year

                                   2000 coordinators.

                               •   The National Emergency Number Association is working to modify its

                                   technical standards, which cover a number of issues related to 9-1-1, to

                                   include Year 2000 compliance statements.     The association is also

                                   advising its approximately 6,000 members to check their mission-critical

                                   computers and equipment for Year 2000 readiness.

                               •   The National Association of Counties has been working with the

                                   National League of Cities, the International City/County Management

                                   Association, and Public Technology, Inc., to address the Year 2000

                                   challenge and its potential to affect services provided by local

                                   governments.   Together, these organizations have developed and

                                   distributed over 20,000 copies of a Year 2000 information kit and have

                                   sponsored a nationwide Year 2000 satellite broadcast for local

                                   government officials and employees.

                               •   On November 16, FCC hosted a forum--attended by federal, state, and

                                   county government officials, telecommunications providers, and

                                   equipment manufacturers--on maintaining emergency response

                                   communications and potential Year 2000 issues. Topics discussed

                                   included potential Year 2000 threats to the system, strategies for

                                   averting those threats, and the need to convey the importance of the

                                   Year 2000 challenge to other emergency response organizations.

                               •   The Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials

                                   International Inc., is planning to hold a Year 2000 symposium on May 20

                                   and May 21 aimed at agency and company preparedness planning.

                                   Speakers will include officials from FCC, the President’s Council on

                                   Year 2000 Conversion, and other federal government agencies, major

                                   utility companies, public safety communications center directors,

                                   volunteer associations, and communications manufacturers and


                               Page 8                                                        GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
State and Local Law          Over 17,000 state and local law enforcement entities provide services to

Enforcement Year 2000
                             protect the American public.           These entities vary greatly in terms of

                             specific services provided, geographic coverage, and use of computer and

Readiness                    communication tools.           Management information systems, computer-aided

                             dispatch systems, and radio communications are typically used throughout

                             the law enforcement community.               All need to be thoroughly checked to

                             determine their Year 2000 vulnerability and then fixed, if necessary.

Little Is Known About Year   The working group for Police/Public Safety/Law Enforcement/Criminal

2000 Status for State and    Justice has not done an assessment of state and local law enforcement

Local Law Enforcement        agencies.    Rather, its focus has been on increasing awareness through

                             speeches, participation in conferences, and other similar activities.                     In the

                             President’s Conversion Council’s first report this past January, the working

                             group reported:

                             “Based on informal assessment information, there is a high level of awareness of the

                             problem among non-Federal police/law enforcement entities. State police/law enforcement

                             entities and departments in larger metropolitan areas are making good progress. However,

                             most departments at the county and municipality level lack the sophistication to assess the

                             Y2K readiness of their service providers.   These departments do not have their own,

                             dedicated IT resources--money and professional staffing--and are instead dependent on the

                             IT departments of the county, city, or municipality of which they are a part. Dedicated radio

                             communications and dispatch systems are a concern for all police/law enforcement

                             organizations and the working group is encouraging departments to focus on contingency

                             planning in this area.”

                             The working group made no report in the second national assessment

                             summary issued earlier this month.

                             Late last week, following our inquiries, the working group decided to

                             develop an assessment of state/local law enforcement entities in

                             conjunction with FEMA’s efforts to develop more information on

                             emergency services.           The working group plans to conduct the survey by

                             telephone to increase the response rate and to complete the survey by the

                             time of the next sector summary report, which is expected in July.

                              The President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion: First Quarterly Summary of Assessment
                             Information (January 7, 1999).

                             Page 9                                                                        GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
Justice Outreach Efforts Are   According to the Justice Chief Information Officer (CIO), the three

Limited                        department components with primary responsibility for outreach to state

                               and local agencies are the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Drug

                               Enforcement Administration (DEA), and Bureau of Prisons (BOP).                                With

                               the exception of BOP, neither the department nor its component bureaus

                               have formal outreach programs with stated goals and defined strategies for

                               actively reaching out to counterparts in state and local and international

                               governments.        In lieu of formal programs, the department and its bureaus

                               are conducting largely ad hoc activities aimed at increasing Year 2000


Bureau of Prisons              In January, we recommended that the Bureau of Prisons proactively

                               identify organizations needing assistance and share their experiences and
                               lessons learned in remediating and preparing for Year 2000 problems.                                The

                               bureau agreed and has established a proactive outreach program.                              For


                               •   BOP established a formal outreach program with stated goals and

                                   defined strategies for reaching out to its counterparts in the state and

                                   local correctional community.               BOP’s plan called for this work to be

                                   conducted through professional associations, with the aim of delivering

                                   relevant information to corrections officials and providing direct

                                   assistance where needed.              In addition, BOP plans to evaluate the

                                   effectiveness of its outreach activities, for example, by monitoring

                                   access to the BOP and National Institute of Corrections (NIC) Internet

                                   sites to assess the effectiveness of this mechanism in reaching its

                                   targeted audience.

                               •   On March 1, 1999, BOP sent a letter to all members of NIC informing

                                   corrections officials about possible Year 2000 problems beyond those

                                   related to computer software and hardware.                      It mentioned such matters

                                   as embedded microchips in equipment like metal detectors, X-ray

                                   machines, and elevators, and encouraged officials to look into the

                                   compliance of such equipment. The letter informed recipients about the

                                   BOP and NIC Internet sites and provided the addresses to reach them. It

                                   also provided phone numbers to call if the recipients needed further

                                   assistance. BOP plans two more follow-up mailings throughout the year

                                 Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Status of Bureau of Prisons’ Year 2000 Efforts   (GAO/AIMD-99-23, January
                               27, 1999).

                               Page 10                                                                            GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
                                     that will provide updated information, as appropriate, to state and local

                                     correction officials.

                                 •   Also, BOP plans to make a limited number of follow-up phone calls to

                                     recipients of the letter.    The calls will be used to assess the usefulness of

                                     the initial mailing and, depending on the findings, to modify future

                                     mailings to better meet needs of the state and local facilities.               Second,

                                     the calls will determine whether state and local facilities need

                                     assistance in their remediation.         BOP officials admit that they have

                                     limited ability to provide direct assistance, but they believe they can

                                     share lessons learned during the course of their own remediation work.

Other Justice Outreach Efforts   The following are descriptions of other outreach efforts being carried out

                                 by the Department of Justice.

                                 •   On December 11, 1998, the CIO chaired a Year 2000 outreach session

                                     with the Government Advisory Group for the Global Criminal Justice

                                     Information Network.         Members of the Advisory Group include the

                                     American Correctional Association, the International Association of

                                     Chiefs of Police, the National Sheriffs Association, and the National

                                     Association of Attorney Generals, among others.                The FBI made three

                                     presentations at the outreach session concerning the compliance of its

                                     key systems and forensic laboratories.

                                 •   On January 25, 1999, the Attorney General sent a letter to the presidents

                                     of seven law enforcement/criminal justice associations intended for

                                     publication in association newsletters.           The letter discussed potential

                                     Year 2000 problems associated with law enforcement and the formation

                                     of the President’s Council on Year 2000 Conversion.                It also provided the

                                     address of the Council’s Internet site and encouraged state and local law

                                     enforcement agencies to take a hard look at their buildings, computers,

                                     and other devices that could be susceptible to the Year 2000 problem.

                                 •   The FBI has engaged in a number of activities to educate state and local

                                     law enforcement officials about the status of the FBI’s mission-critical

                                     systems.    FBI officials have spoken at law enforcement conferences

                                     about their Year 2000 program primarily to discuss the status of key

                                     systems, such as the National Crime Information Center system, and to

                                     provide assurance that these systems will be unaffected by Year 2000

                                     problems.     The FBI has also recently published an article in several law
                                     enforcement publications            discussing the experiences the FBI had with

                                  Law Enforcement News , September 30, 1998; Law Enforcement Technology , August 1998; and The
                                 Police Chief , March 1999.

                                 Page 11                                                                    GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
                       its system remediation and encouraging state and local law enforcement

                       groups to institute their own Year 2000 programs.       The FBI is also using

                       the Criminal Justice Information System Advisory Board, run by state

                       representatives, to communicate Year 2000 information to state and

                       local users of FBI systems.

                   •   The Office of Justice Programs is working to build awareness through

                       two forums.    First, in July 1998, it distributed a notice to all grant

                       recipients that all new equipment purchased with grant money is

                       required to be Year 2000 compliant.     The notice provided an Internet

                       address and a phone number where recipients could obtain Year 2000

                       information.   Second, at regional financial management training

                       seminars held throughout the country, the office has been working to

                       build Year 2000 awareness by discussing some basic information about

                       the problem.

                   •   DEA has stated that the focus of its outreach efforts is making sure that

                       its system interfaces with state and local and other counterparts are

                       fully compliant.   DEA is also working with state and local law

                       enforcement in field offices where DEA shares facilities with local or

                       state counterparts.

                   In conclusion, Mr. Chairman, not enough is known about the status of

                   either the 9-1-1 system or of state and local law enforcement activities to

                   conclude about either’s ability during the transition to the Year 2000 to

                   meet the public safety and well-being needs of local communities across

                   the nation.   The Emergency Services and Telecommunications working

                   groups have been active in this area and plan to follow up on their initial

                   surveys.   The Police/Public Safety/Law Enforcement/Criminal Justice

                   working group has further to go to develop a more defined assessment but

                   is moving forward.

                   However, more needs to be done than simply determining the status of

                   these two critical sectors.   More specifically, these sectors, under the

                   leadership of the Council, should use the information made available

                   through the working group assessments to identify specific risks and

                   develop appropriate strategies and contingency plans to respond to those


                   Mr. Chairman, that concludes my statement.         I would be happy to respond

                   to any questions you or the Committee members have.

(511153)   Leter   Page 12                                                           GAO/T-AIMD-99-163
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