Year 2000 Computing Challenge: FAA Continues to Make Important Strides, But Vulnerabilities Remain

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-09-09.

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

                          United States General Accounting Office

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

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
10 a.m.
                          YEAR 2000 COMPUTING
September 9, 1999         CHALLENGE

                          FAA Continues to Make
                          Important Strides, But
                          Vulnerabilities Remain
                          Statement of Joel C. Willemssen
                          Director, Civil Agencies Information Systems
                          Accounting and Information Management Division

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

We appreciate the opportunity to testify today on the Federal Aviation
Administration’s (FAA) efforts to address the Year 2000 (Y2K) problem.
With a little over 100 days remaining until January 1, 2000, the Y2K
computing problem is at the forefront of the world’s information
technology challenges and is especially crucial to FAA.

Hundreds of critical computer systems make FAA’s operations possible.
FAA uses these systems to control air traffic, target airlines for inspection,
and provide up-to-date weather conditions to pilots and air traffic
controllers. However, many of these systems could fail to perform as
needed when using dates after 1999 unless proper date-related calculations
can be ensured. Should systems fail or malfunction, hundreds of thousands
of people could be affected through customer inconvenience, increased
airline costs, grounded or delayed flights, or degraded levels of safety.

My statement today will focus on four topics: (1) FAA’s progress to date,
(2) challenges FAA faces in ensuring that its internal systems will work,
(3) risks associated with external organizations—focusing specifically on
airports, airlines, and international entities, and (4) the critical need for
business continuity and contingency plans that identify how aviation
operations will continue should systems fail. Our review of FAA’s Y2K
program was performed in accordance with generally accepted
government auditing standards from March through September 1999. We
performed our work at FAA headquarters and facilities in Washington, D.C.,
and at facilities in Atlanta, Georgia; Dallas, Texas; and Denver, Colorado.
We obtained comments on a draft of this testimony from FAA officials and
incorporated these comments where appropriate.

In brief, FAA and its employees have made excellent progress in tackling
the monumental Y2K problem. The agency is now reporting that all of its
systems are ready for the year 2000. However, FAA’s work is not yet done.
The agency continues to face challenges in ensuring that its internal
systems will work as intended through the Y2K date change. These
challenges involve managing modifications to compliant systems,
independent verification of systems’ compliance, and systems testing. FAA
must also mitigate risks posed by external organizations, including
airports, airlines, and foreign air traffic control systems. These factors
could impede FAA’s ability to provide reliable aviation services, which
could seriously affect the flow of air traffic across the nation and around
the world. In the event that critical internal or external systems do not

Page 1                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                        work as intended, FAA must have a comprehensive and tested business
                        continuity and contingency plan ready to implement and train its staff in
                        how to do so.

FAA Has Made            Over the past year and a half, FAA has made substantial progress. In
                        January 1998, the agency had no central Y2K program management; an
Excellent Progress in   incomplete inventory of mission-critical systems; no overall strategy for
Its Y2K Readiness       renovating, validating, and implementing mission-critical systems; and no
                        milestone dates or schedules.1 At that time, we recommended that FAA
                        provide its Y2K program manager with the authority to enforce policies;
                        outline FAA’s overall strategy for addressing the Y2K date change; complete
                        inventories of all information systems and interfaces; set priorities;
                        establish plans for renovating, validating, and testing all converted and
                        replaced systems; and develop Y2K business continuity and contingency
                        plans to ensure the continuity of critical operations.

                        FAA has addressed our recommendations. The agency established a strong
                        Y2K program office, and tasked it with providing leadership—guidance and
                        oversight—to FAA’s business lines and aviation industry partners. The
                        program office established (1) an overall Y2K strategy, (2) detailed
                        standards and guidance for renovating, validating, and implementing
                        mission-critical systems, (3) a database of schedules and milestones for
                        these activities, and (4) a Y2K business continuity and contingency plan.
                        The agency has also worked to repair or replace systems with date-related
                        problems, test these systems, and implement these repairs and
                        replacements in air traffic control facilities throughout the nation.

                        Recently, the Department of Transportation (DOT) announced that—as of
                        June 30—100 percent of FAA’s systems were fully Y2K compliant.
                        Specifically, DOT stated that FAA had completed Y2K work on
                        424 mission-critical systems and 204 nonmission-critical systems. The
                        department also reported that data verifying the compliance of all FAA
                        systems had been examined and approved by Science Applications
                        International Corporation (SAIC), an independent verification and
                        validation (IV&V) contractor. DOT also noted that its Inspector General
                        had examined a sample of systems and approved FAA’s work.

                         FAA Computer Systems: Limited Progress on Year 2000 Issue Increases Risk Dramatically
                        (GAO/AIMD-98-45, January 30, 1998).

                        Page 2                                                              GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                            Last month, FAA revised its Y2K project plan to identify key efforts for the
                            remaining months before January 1, 2000. One key activity involves
                            ensuring that systems that have been certified Y2K compliant maintain this
                            status through a change-control process. Other activities include testing
                            contingency plans and training systems users in how to implement them, if
                            necessary. According to FAA, the agency is also having two independent
                            contractors analyze selected compliant systems’ code for any date

Evidence Supports Systems   To manage the deployment of hundreds of systems’ Y2K-related changes in
Implementation              facilities across the nation, FAA’s Y2K program office established
                            implementation standards. These standards require system owners to
                            complete a system’s Y2K certification, and, as applicable, test the system at
                            key sites and deploy it nationally. When the system is implemented at every
                            facility, system owners are then required to prepare a Y2K implementation
                            results report. Once this report has been approved within the relevant
                            business line, FAA’s IV&V contractor reviews it and other key
                            implementation documents. Upon successful completion of this review, the
                            system is considered implemented.

                            When we last testified on this topic in March 1999,2 FAA estimated it had
                            yet to complete roughly 4,500 implementation “events”—each one entailing
                            the activation of a single system at a single site. FAA subsequently reported
                            that it completed this task on June 30, 1999.

                            To evaluate this effort, we reviewed implementation evidence for
                            18 mission-critical air traffic systems3 that were installed at one or more of
                            8 different facilities—totaling 49 implementation events in all. In evaluating
                            implementation evidence, we reviewed hard copy and automated
                            maintenance records to determine if the Y2K modification had been
                            completed, and sought to identify compliant version numbers on system

                             Year 2000 Computing Crisis: FAA Is Making Progress But Important Challenges Remain
                            (GAO/T-AIMD/RCED-99-118, March 15, 1999).
                             In choosing systems, we attempted to cover a range of air traffic control functions in
                            different environments. We selected implemented systems from three different critical core
                            functions (surveillance, weather information processing, and communications) that operate
                            in one or more of the different air traffic control environments (en route, terminal, tower,
                            and flight service station). Seven of these systems were also chosen because they were
                            among the 26 systems identified by FAA as posing the greatest risk to the National Airspace

                            Page 3                                                                  GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                          consoles where possible. To the extent they were available, we also
                          interviewed local technicians who implemented the modifications. We did
                          not validate the effectiveness of the Y2K repairs.

                          We found sufficient documentation supporting the implementation of these
                          systems in all cases where this evidence was required. Of the 49 events,
                          39 required an entry in the maintenance records and 10 did not. The
                          39 events that required an entry were all documented in the facilities’
                          maintenance records. Additionally, we viewed compliant version numbers
                          on backup console screens for 18 of the events. In some cases, we could
                          not view the console screens because the system was on-line supporting air
                          traffic control operations and would have had to be taken off-line for us to
                          see version numbers.

                          Of the 10 events that did not require an entry in the maintenance records,
                          5 were associated with leased systems, 2 were associated with prototype
                          systems, and 3 were associated with systems that were not in operation at
                          the facilities. FAA technicians explained that leased systems are
                          maintained, monitored, and operated by a contractor—and thus are not
                          tracked in FAA’s maintenance records. Similarly, the prototype systems we
                          evaluated were maintained and managed by the National Aeronautics and
                          Space Administration, and so were also not tracked in FAA’s maintenance
                          records. Of the three systems that were not in operation at the facilities we
                          visited, two had been decommissioned and one was maintained and
                          managed at a distant location.

FAA’s Year 2000 Efforts   FAA faces several challenges that could affect its activities through the Y2K
                          date change. These include addressing
Face Important
Challenges                • changes to compliant systems that could introduce new Y2K problems,
                          • independent verification efforts that were not documented, and
                          • end-to-end testing efforts that were not comprehensive.

                          Page 4                                                      GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
Changes to Compliant        As noted in our January 1999 testimony, changes made to systems after
Systems Increase Risks of   they have been certified as Y2K compliant can introduce new Y2K
                            problems.4 To address this risk, we suggested the federal government adopt
Y2K-Related Failures
                            a strong Y2K change management policy—one that limits new software and
                            systems changes. As an example of such a policy, we noted that the Social
                            Security Administration had issued a moratorium on new systems changes
                            on commercial-off-the-shelf and mainframe products from July 1, 1999
                            through March 31, 2000, and on programmatic applications from
                            September 1, 1999 through March 31, 2000. We, therefore, suggested that
                            the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) consider directing agencies
                            to implement such a policy.

                            In response to our suggestion, in May, OMB issued a memo to federal
                            department heads stating the importance of considering the potential effect
                            of changes to information technology systems on Y2K readiness, and
                            urging agency heads to adopt a policy that only allows system changes
                            where absolutely necessary. OMB also requested that agency heads
                            summarize how they would implement such guidance in their quarterly
                            Y2K progress reports.

                            In its August 1999 quarterly report to OMB, DOT responded that it had a
                            formal policy in place that required critical software and hardware
                            modifications to be supported by formal, documented change control
                            procedures. DOT also stated that on July 23, 1999, its Deputy Chief
                            Information Officer (CIO) issued a memorandum calling for all operating
                            administrations to examine any decision to proceed with new requirements
                            or modifications to Y2K-compliant systems and to defer such modifications
                            until after the Y2K date change, if possible.

                            Prior to the Deputy CIO’s memo, on May 28, FAA established a policy
                            calling for system owners to assess whether any completed modification to
                            a Y2K-compliant system might affect the system’s compliance or its ability
                            to process dates, and to disclose this information in a Y2K Certified System
                            Change Report to their lines of business and the Y2K program office.
                            According to the policy, if, as a result of this assessment, a modification
                            were determined to have an impact on date processing or Y2K compliance,
                            the system would have to be revalidated, recertified Y2K compliant, and

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

                            Page 5                                                            GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
Although FAA recognized the criticality of controlling systems changes and
established a policy for doing so, the agency has not yet effectively
implemented this policy. As of August 24, FAA Y2K program officials told
us that they had received three Y2K Certified System Change Reports and
that they were following up on another four system modifications
identified by the Inspector General that did not have supporting change
reports. However, when we requested a list of all system modifications
logged in FAA’s Maintenance Management System (MMS)—the agency’s
national database of systems modifications, maintenance actions, and
interruptions—from July 1, 1999 (the day after FAA’s systems were deemed
fully compliant) through August 23, 1999, the resulting printout was
535 pages long. Our preliminary review of this information identified
967 completed system modifications5 that should have been linked to
Certified Y2K Systems Change Reports.6 For example, on August 15, one
facility reported modifying its Digital Bright Radar Indicator Tower
Equipment. In another instance, a facility made modifications to its
Automated Radar Terminal System. Both of these systems help air traffic
controllers maintain adequate separation between aircraft.

Beyond the completed modifications, we identified an additional
239 modifications that had been initiated and were in process. These also
should generate change reports when they are completed. For example, on
August 3, one facility initiated−but has not yet completed−a software
upgrade to its Terminal Doppler Weather Radar.

When asked about the large number of modifications that were not linked
to the required change reports, FAA’s acting Y2K program manager7 stated
that the program office recently realized that the change-control policy did
not specify a deadline by which system owners must file their change
reports. The Y2K manager explained that system owners might have

 We focused on modifications that had been completed (and so would require a change
report), and eliminated entries that stated that (1) the modification was not applicable to the
subject facility, (2) this was a delayed entry and the modification had been made prior to
June 30, or (3) the change only applied to systems documentation. We also eliminated
duplicate entries.
 Multiple system modifications may be linked to a single System Change Report because the
maintenance management system lists each facility’s modifications separately, and several
facilities could be implementing the same change.
 In July 1999, FAA’s Y2K program manager accepted a different position in the agency; the
deputy program manager is serving as acting program manager.

Page 6                                                                    GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
delayed filing change reports because of this lack of a deadline. Yesterday,
the Y2K program office modified the policy to require change reports no
later than 2 weeks after the system owner assesses the Y2K impact of any
system modification.

Additionally, officials in FAA’s air traffic services line of business reviewed
samples of the 535 pages of systems modifications and stated that they
believed many of the modifications had been made prior to June 30, but
that the technician did not reflect that in the entry. They stated that they
will follow up on every entry in the MMS database to ensure that all
modifications are tracked for Y2K compliance, and that in the future, they
plan to use the MMS database to help them track all system modifications,
including new modifications.

In addition to its change control policy, FAA’s Y2K program office allowed
each business line to determine if a policy implementing a moratorium on
changes to Y2K compliant systems was appropriate for its organization.
One organization, the office of the Associate Administrator for Research
and Acquisitions (ARA)—which is responsible for developing new air
traffic control systems—issued a policy calling for a moratorium on new
system changes to certified systems from November 17, 1999 through
January 7, 2000, and from February 1, 2000 through March 8, 2000. This
policy also establishes a waiver process for mission-critical, safety-related,
or other essential modifications required during the moratorium period,
and states that waivers will be granted wherever a contract schedule would
be affected by the moratorium. The FAA office responsible for operating
the National Airspace System (NAS)—the network of equipment, facilities,
and information that supports U.S. aviation operations—has drafted a
similar policy.

FAA’s ARA organization plans to waive the moratorium for at least one
system change scheduled to occur during that time frame. The new
Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS), which is to
replace aging radar data processing systems, is scheduled to begin
operating at the first two facilities in December 1999 and January 2000. The
ARA Y2K program manager stated that he plans to grant this system a
waiver to allow it to meet its schedule.

Another major change affecting the NAS is scheduled to take place on
December 30. This change, called the 56-day national database update,
involves updating boundaries between facilities, navigational aids, weather
locations, and airways structures throughout the national airspace. This

Page 7                                                        GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                              change coincides with worldwide updating of aeronautical information by
                              the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), the international
                              organization responsible for aviation standards. This updating process
                              occurs regularly throughout the year and, according to an FAA official, has,
                              on occasion, experienced problems. While this change is not expected to
                              affect the Y2K status of systems, any change so soon before the date
                              rollover complicates the process of identifying and correcting problems.
                              FAA officials stated that they explored the possibility of delaying the 56-day
                              update, but decided not to do so because of the safety implications
                              resulting from not updating critical aviation information.

Lack of Documentation         As we previously reported, when OMB and the President’s Council on Year
Supporting IV&V               2000 Conversion began collecting information on the Y2K progress of
                              federal agencies, they had little assurance that they were receiving
Contractor’s Efforts Raises
                              accurate information because progress was predominantly based on
Questions About Compliant     agency reports that had not been consistently reviewed or verified.8 In fact,
Systems                       we had found cases in which agencies’ reported compliance status was
                              inaccurate. To address this issue, we recommended that the Council
                              require agencies to develop an independent verification strategy. According
                              to OMB, all agencies are now required to independently verify their
                              validation process, and senior managers at all large agencies are now
                              relying on independent verification to provide a double-check that their
                              mission-critical systems will, in fact, be ready for the year 2000.

                              To respond to this requirement, many agencies hired IV&V contractors to
                              assist in their Y2K work. Such contractors provide quality assurance
                              services ranging from reviewing systems’ documentation to independent
                              testing of Y2K repairs. IV&V contractors often perform verification and
                              validation services and summarize their results, together with any
                              qualifications they may have, in the form of interim and final reports.

                              FAA contracted with SAIC to perform an independent review of each
                              system’s documentation throughout key Y2K program phases (assessment,
                              renovation, validation, and implementation) and to report its findings in
                              monthly status reports. The task order stated that SAIC would not be asked
                              to certify that FAA systems were actually Y2K compliant.


                              Page 8                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
In reviewing FAA’s systems, SAIC used standard checklists identifying
required documents for each phase, and reported any concerns to the Y2K
program office during daily meetings.9 FAA’s acting Y2K program manager
stated that agency officials saw these checklists during the meetings, and
that the checklists often contained handwritten notes about concerns and
how they were resolved. However, when SAIC completed its work and
turned its files over to FAA, these handwritten checklists had been
removed. Instead, SAIC provided electronic files that lacked a complete
history of the concerns and the reviewer’s signature.

Without this history, it is difficult to determine if all of the system-specific
concerns raised during SAIC’s independent review had been addressed. For
example, when we reviewed Y2K documentation for the Display System
Replacement system,10 we found that SAIC had reported that there were
several unexplained problems that needed to be addressed and retested
during the validation phase. Later, SAIC approved the system for
implementation, but there is no explanation of how the validation problems
were resolved. Similarly, SAIC identified missing and incomplete
information on FAA’s mission-critical heating, ventilation, and air
conditioning (HVAC) system11 during renovation. SAIC later approved the
system’s validation and implementation, but we were unable to find any
documentation supporting how their renovation concerns had been

Further, because FAA did not require it, SAIC did not originally provide
written interim or final reports summarizing the outcome of its activities,
including any issues or crosscutting concerns. Without interim or final
IV&V reports, FAA did not have summary evidence that IV&V concerns and
issues were raised and satisfactorily addressed. In response to our concern
about the lack of an IV&V summary report, FAA’s acting Y2K program
manager stated that while she was comfortable that all of SAIC’s concerns
had been addressed, she recognized the value of having a summary

 FAA’s acting Y2K program manager stated that the agency’s daily and weekly meetings with
SAIC and the data sheets that were discussed during the meetings satisfied the requirement
for monthly status reports.
 The Display System Replacement displays radar data to controllers in the en route
 HVAC systems are needed to maintain critical air traffic control equipment in normal
operating condition.

Page 9                                                                GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                     statement. FAA obtained such a summary statement from SAIC on
                     September 7, 1999.

End-to-End Testing   Integrated, end-to-end testing of multiple systems that have been
Valuable, But Not    individually deemed Y2K compliant ensures that the systems that
                     collectively support a core business function will operate as intended.
                     Without such testing, systems individually deemed compliant may not work
                     as expected when linked with other systems in an operational
                     environment. This testing should include not only those owned and
                     managed by an organization, but also any external systems with which they

                     FAA’s end-to-end testing strategy related to the National Airspace System
                     focused on systems that directly support navigation, surveillance, weather,
                     maintenance, and air traffic control functions.12 FAA conducted three types
                     of Y2K end-to-end testing: system integrity testing, operational
                     demonstration, and field-site testing.

                     FAA’s system integrity tests involved testing groups of systems supporting
                     weather processing, communications, flight- and radar-data processing,
                     and remote maintenance monitoring, to ensure that data were processed
                     correctly across interfaces. To date, FAA has completed five system
                     integrity tests and reported that there were no Y2K-related problems in any
                     of the tests.13 One of these tests was performed in response to our concern,
                     raised in March 1999, that FAA did not validate the radar tracking functions
                     of its Automated Radar Terminal System (ARTS)-IIIA—a critical data
                     processing system used in about 55 terminal radar approach control
                     facilities.14 In this system integrity test, FAA compared ARTS-IIIA radar
                     tracking information with two independent tracking systems and found no
                     Y2K-related problems. The information from the three sources was

                      FAA also performed system-specific testing prior to certifying each systems’ Y2K
                      FAA officials stated that they performed a sixth system integrity test, but that the test
                     results report has not yet been completed.

                     Page 10                                                                   GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
FAA’s end-to-end operational demonstration simulated having aircraft pass
through all phases of flight using recorded data, and tested the activities
associated with these phases—such as weather briefings, clearances,
aircraft tracking, rerouting, handoffs, and transfers. This test focused on
FAA’s ability to continue intersystem and interfacility data communications
through the Y2K date change. FAA officials reported that they completed
this test in February, with no Y2K-related problems.

FAA’s field-site testing involved a demonstration of core NAS functions
using equipment at operational air traffic control facilities in order to
demonstrate that functional components at selected sites were reliable
under Y2K conditions. FAA ran this demonstration in a “split environment.”
That is, the agency used redundant equipment for this demonstration while
still controlling live air traffic with its primary air traffic control systems.
FAA completed this testing in April and reported it a success.

While these three types of tests are important in demonstrating FAA’s Y2K
progress in successively increasing increments, the tests were not
comprehensive. Specifically, of 21 mission-critical systems15 that FAA
identified as posing the greatest risk to the national airspace system if not
operational on January 1, 2000, 13 were not included in any end-to-end
testing. These include four weather systems, four communications
systems, and five facilities systems. For example, neither the Graphical
Weather Display System (GWDS) nor the Terminal Doppler Weather Radar
(TDWR) was included in any of the end-to-end tests. Both of these systems
are critical to obtaining aviation weather information; GWDS provides
graphical weather information to flight service stations while TDWR
detects windshear events and reports these events to air traffic controllers.

Additionally, the agency’s broadest end-to-end test, the field-site test, was
limited in that it took place during low traffic conditions. Further, FAA did
not exercise every system or interface in this test. For example, FAA was
unable to use the critical Voice Switching and Control System—used for
communications between air traffic controllers and pilots—because it
could not be set up to operate in both a primary and redundant
environment. Also, FAA did not test critical backup systems, such as the
Direct Access Radar Channel, which is essential should the Host Computer
System—the primary information processing system in an en route

 FAA originally identified 26 systems as posing the greatest risk to the national airspace
system, but 5 have since been decommissioned.

Page 11                                                                  GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                            center—fail. Finally, because FAA’s demonstration focused on air traffic
                            control systems, it did not constitute an end-to-end test of all of the key
                            components of the NAS—including mission-critical systems operated by
                            airlines and airports.

                            FAA officials agreed that their end-to-end tests were not comprehensive,
                            but stated that they had tested many of their most important systems and
                            functions and, therefore, do not plan to conduct additional end-to-end
                            testing. Given the significance of the systems and functions that have not
                            yet been tested end-to-end, FAA should consider performing additional
                            testing in the time remaining before the Year 2000 date change.

Risks Associated With       In addition to the challenges FAA faces in ensuring its internal systems will
                            work through the Y2K date change, the agency is at risk that critical
External Partners           external systems will fail, thereby affecting its operations. Three prime
Could Affect Aviation       areas of risk are airports, airlines, and international partners.

Many Airports Expected to   The successful operation of the NAS depends, in part, on the equipment
Complete Y2K Activities     that airports use to carry out their operations. This equipment helps
                            provide safe, secure, and efficient aircraft operations and other services to
Late This Year
                            the public; it includes controls for functions such as runway lighting,
                            monitoring access to secured areas, handling baggage, providing
                            emergency communications, and fueling aircraft. Because much of this
                            equipment is automated, it is at risk of Y2K-induced failures and
                            malfunctioning. While airport officials expressed confidence that they
                            could resort to manual operations if automated systems fail, they noted
                            that manual operations could decrease an airport’s efficiency—its ability to
                            handle its normal number of scheduled flights per day—thereby causing
                            flight delays. Delays at one airport could have a ripple effect, causing
                            delays at other airports and eventually reducing the efficiency of the
                            system nationwide.

                            Page 12                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
We raised concerns about the Y2K status of our nation’s airports in January
1999, when we reported that nearly two-thirds of 334 airports responding to
our survey did not plan to complete their Y2K efforts by FAA’s
recommended June 30 deadline.16 We also noted that while most of these
were small airports, 26 of them were among the nation’s 50 largest airports.

More recently, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)
required member countries to report on the Y2K status of their civil
aviation systems—including air traffic control systems, airports, and
airlines—by July 1, 1999. FAA collected Y2K information on 113 U.S.
airports, submitted it to ICAO on June 29, and is continuing to update this
information.17 According to FAA’s latest information, about 20 percent of
the 113 airports reported that they had completed their Y2K preparations.
Another 58 percent estimated that they would complete Y2K efforts by
September 30, and the remaining 22 percent of airports either planned on a
later date or did not provide an estimated completion date. Among the
group planning to complete their Y2K efforts after September 30, but by
November 30, are five of the nation’s largest international airports.

FAA is also collecting information on the Y2K status of 566 domestic
airports’ safety systems and 459 airports’ security systems—systems that
FAA certifies—but this information is not yet complete. FAA officials stated
that the agency is requiring information on airports’ safety systems by
October 15, but had not set a deadline for information on security systems.
The agency will continue this information-collection effort through the end
of 1999.

To help ensure the safety of airports’ systems, on July 1, 1999, FAA
proposed a requirement that airports test critical safety equipment early on
January 1, 2000. The purpose of this proposed requirement was to have
airports test equipment—such as emergency communications systems and
fire trucks—that may not be in use during the Y2K date change. Several
airports provided comments to FAA on this proposed rule change, and the
agency is now evaluating those comments before proceeding to issue the
new requirement.

   Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Status of Airports’ Efforts to Deal With Date Change Problem
(GAO/RCED/AIMD-99-57, January 29, 1999).
  On August 31, FAA requested that we treat information on specific airports and airlines as
“For Official Use Only” information, meaning that we are unable to report site-specific
information in a public forum.

Page 13                                                                 GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
Many Airlines Expected to    Airlines, another key element of the National Airspace System, also rely
Complete Y2K Activities      heavily on automated systems to provide safe and efficient air
                             transportation. These systems support communications, navigation, flight
Late This Year
                             management, aeronautical information processing, and weather
                             information processing, as well as transponders and engine management.

                             Responding to ICAO’s request for Y2K information on airlines, FAA
                             collected Y2K information on 146 international airlines in April and May
                             1999, submitted it to ICAO on June 29 and is continuing to update this
                             information. According to FAA’s latest information, about 33 percent of the
                             146 airlines reported that their systems were Y2K compliant. Another
                             35 percent planned to complete their Y2K efforts by September 30, and the
                             remaining 32 percent either planned on a later date or did not provide any
                             date. Among the group planning to complete their Y2K efforts after
                             September 30, but by December 31, 1999, are four of the nation’s major

                             FAA is also collecting Y2K status information from over 14,000 FAA-
                             certified air carriers and operators. The agency distributed a questionnaire
                             to certificate-holders in April 1999, and is currently following up with
                             nonrespondents. In addition, FAA inspectors are beginning to ask questions
                             of certificate-holders about their Y2K status. FAA officials stated that they
                             will continue with these efforts through the Y2K date change.

International Activity and   American international carriers operate in over 90 countries and at over
Coordination Is Continuing   200 foreign airports; similarly, over 125 foreign carriers cross FAA-
                             controlled airspace. FAA lacks the authority and resources to ensure
                             compliance of any foreign air traffic control system, but it nevertheless
                             retains responsibility for ensuring safe, reliable aviation services for
                             American travelers into 2000 and beyond.

                             FAA’s international Y2K management team has been active. FAA is sharing
                             information with its foreign counterparts and assisting them in addressing
                             Y2K issues, such as business continuity and contingency planning. FAA is
                             also actively working with ICAO to obtain Y2K status information on its
                             international counterparts, and is prioritizing countries based on perceived
                             risk in order to determine the level of testing to be performed with these
                             countries. FAA reports that it has completed international testing with
                             several countries, and plans to continue these tests throughout 1999.

                             Page 14                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                      FAA’s Y2K international manager stated that FAA will provide status
                      information on individual countries to the State Department to help
                      develop consular information sheets—previously called travel advisories—
                      regarding ICAO member countries. Both the departments of Transportation
                      and State intend to issue information on individual countries later this

Comprehensive         Because of the risk of anticipated and unanticipated Y2K failures—whether
                      from internal systems or due to reliance on external partners and
Business Continuity   suppliers—comprehensive business continuity and contingency plans are
and Contingency       crucial to continuing core operations. We have issued guidance on this
                      topic,18 and OMB adopted this guidance as the standard that federal
Planning Is Crucial   agencies are to use in developing their business continuity and contingency

                      In accordance with this requirement, FAA drafted a Y2K business
                      continuity and contingency plan in December 1998, and released iterations
                      of this plan in April and July 1999. FAA’s plan defined its approach to
                      business continuity and contingency planning and focused on developing
                      risk matrices for each of the agency’s core business functions. These risk
                      matrices, developed in conjunction with subject matter experts, identify
                      risks, business impact, mitigation strategies, potential triggers, and
                      contingency plans within each core business area.19 The latest version of
                      the plan also describes FAA’s “Day One” strategy—plans and procedures
                      for the time frame immediately before and after the date rollover, business
                      resumption model, and plans for testing the contingency plan and training
                      people in how to use it.

                      For the portion of the plan that affects the NAS, the “Day One” strategy is a
                      plan for reducing risk from December 31, 1999 through January 1, 2000.
                      This includes the establishment of business resumption teams made up of
                      experts who will be available to address problems, as well as a
                      communications structure for coordinating responses to any problems that

                         Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Business Continuity and Contingency Planning (GAO/AIMD-
                      10.1.19, August 1998). This product was available as an exposure draft in March 1998.
                       The information in these risk matrices is considered “For Official Use Only” and therefore
                      cannot be discussed in this testimony.

                      Page 15                                                                GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
                   To test and improve the NAS portion of its business continuity and
                   contingency plan, FAA has initiated rehearsal exercises. One such exercise
                   took place last month, and another is scheduled for next month. During
                   these exercises, experts in various facets of aviation operations work
                   through different failure scenarios, determining how they would react and
                   what further activities should be undertaken to better prepare the agency
                   for such failures. These scenarios range from minor to major failures, and
                   include failures of the national infrastructure. FAA officials stated that they
                   will use suggestions generated during these exercises to improve their
                   contingency plans. This is an extremely valuable exercise but, for it to be
                   effective, FAA must follow through and act on key suggestions.

                   FAA is also planning to train key systems users on the NAS portion of the
                   business continuity and contingency plan. The air traffic services line of
                   business is developing a training curriculum and intends to train air traffic
                   controllers and systems specialists in the months preceding the date
                   rollover. Because FAA’s business continuity and contingency plan provides
                   a Y2K focus not included in the agency’s existing contingency plans, such
                   training is crucial.

                   This concludes my statement, and I would be happy to respond to any
                   questions that you or other members of the Subcommittees may have at
                   this time.

Contact and        If you have any questions regarding this testimony, please contact Joel
                   Willemssen at (202) 512-6408 or by e-mail at willemssenj.aimd@gao.gov.
Acknowledgements   Individuals making key contributions to this testimony include Nabajyoti
                   Barkakati, William Bumgarner, Cynthia Jackson, Colleen Phillips, and
                   Glenda Wright.

(511742)   Leter   Page 16                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-285
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