Year 2000 Computing Challenge: Status of the District of Columbia's Efforts to Renovate Systems and Develop Contingency and Continuity Plans

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-09-24.

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

                          United States General Accounting Office

GAO                       Testimony
                          Before the Subcommittee on the District of Columbia,
                          Committee on Government Reform, House of

For Release on Delivery
Expected at
11 a.m.
                          YEAR 2000 COMPUTING
September 24, 1999        CHALLENGE

                          Status of the District of
                          Columbia’s Efforts to
                          Renovate Systems and
                          Develop Contingency and
                          Continuity Plans
                          Statement of Jack L. Brock, Jr.
                          Director, Governmentwide and Defense Information
                          Accounting and Information Management Division

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

Thank you for inviting me to participate in today’s hearing on District of
Columbia’s Year 2000 (Y2K) challenge. As you know, like most large
operations, the District of Columbia is acutely vulnerable to Y2K problems
due to its widespread dependence on computer systems for delivering
important public services. If these problems are not solved before the end
of the year, the District may be unable to effectively carry out its core
business operations, such as those to ensure public safety, collect revenue,
educate students, and provide health care services. Today, I will discuss the
District’s progress in fixing its systems and the remaining risks it faces, the
actions it needs to take to mitigate these risks over the next 3 months, and
the recent experience it needs to capitalize on to strengthen long-term
information technology management. In an accompanying statement, we
discuss the District’s efforts to keep track of the costs associated with
addressing the Y2K issue.

Last October, we testified that the District was about 1 year behind
recommended Y2K schedules but that positive steps were underway to
accelerate its progress in fixing systems.1 To make the most of the short
time remaining, we recommended that the District promptly identify its
most important operations, determine which systems supporting these
operations could be fixed before the Y2K deadline, and ensure that
business continuity and contingency plans are developed for core business
operations for which supporting systems cannot be renovated in time. In
February 1999, we testified that the District remained far behind schedule,
but that its Year 2000 Program Office had taken positive steps to address
our earlier recommendations.2 We continued to stress, however, that the
District’s schedule allowed little time for corrective action if needed and
vital services remained at risk. As such, we recommended that the District
place increased emphasis on completing business continuity and
contingency planning efforts and that key stakeholders participate in
making critical decisions throughout the remainder of the project.

The District is largely following our recommendations. It has made notable
progress in remediating mission-critical systems and has made a good start

Year 2000 Computing Crisis: The District of Columbia Faces Tremendous Challenges in
Ensuring Vital Services Are Not Disrupted (GAO/T-AIMD-99-4, October 2, 1998).
 Year 2000 Computing Crisis: The District of Columbia Remains Behind Schedule
(GAO/T-AIMD-99-84, February 19, 1999).

Page 1                                                              GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
in developing business continuity and contingency plans. However,
because of its overall late start, the District still faces a very real problem:
running out of time. Remediation measures for many mission-critical
systems are not yet complete, testing is far from finished, and schedules for
some projects have slipped over the last several months. Further, even
though the District has made a good start on the initial phase of its business
continuity and contingency planning effort, it was not able to give us a
complete overview of the status of the next−and most important−phase of
its planning work, which will involve adding operational detail and testing
of plans. Because so many critical tasks are scheduled for completion over
the few remaining months, District management must place increased
emphasis on ensuring that project cost and schedule data are accurate, that
priorities are established to best focus resources on the remaining system
remediation and testing efforts, and that business continuity and
contingency planning is completed.

To prepare for this testimony, we conducted an overview of the District’s
recent efforts to address risks associated with the Y2K date change and
compared these efforts to criteria detailed in our Year 2000 Assessment
Guide,3 Business Continuity and Contingency Planning Guide,4 and Testing
Guide.5 We reviewed and analyzed a number of key project documents
including the District’s Enterprise Plan (including updates issued July 27,
August 20, August 27, September 3, and September 16, 1999), the District’s
Quarterly Reports to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), the
District’s Emergency Operations Plan, District contingency planning
guidance, selected District contingency plans, and Year 2000 Program

 Year 2000 Computing Crisis: An Assessment Guide (GAO/AIMD-10.1.14). Published as an
exposure draft in February 1997 and finalized in September 1997, the guide was issued to
help federal agencies prepare for the Y2K conversion.
 Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Business Continuity and Contingency Planning
(GAO/AIMD-10.1.19). Published as an exposure draft in March 1998 and issued in August
1998, this guide provides a conceptual framework for helping organizations to manage the
risk of potential Y2K-induced disruptions to their operations. It discusses the scope and
challenge and offers a structured approach for reviewing the adequacy of agency Y2K
business continuity and contingency planning efforts.
 Year 2000 Computing Crisis: A Testing Guide (GAO/AIMD-10.1.21). Published as an
exposure draft in June 1998 and issued in November 1998, this guide addresses the need to
plan and conduct Y2K tests in a structured and disciplined fashion. The guide describes a
step-by-step framework for managing, and a checklist for assessing, all Y2K testing
activities, including those activities associated with computer systems or system
components (such as embedded processors) that are vendor supported.

Page 2                                                                 GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
                        Office schedule variance reports. We interviewed District officials
                        responsible for overseeing the Y2K effort, including the Interim City
                        Administrator, the Chief Technology Officer, the Year 2000 Program
                        Manager, the Mayor’s Year 2000 Contingency Planning Advisor, the Director
                        of the Emergency Management Agency, the Director for Information
                        Systems Audits in the Office of the Inspector General, and subject matter
                        experts and staff in the Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department.
                        We performed our work in Washingto n ,D.C., from Ju n e11 through
                        September 20, 1999, in accordance with generally accepted government
                        auditing standards.

The District of         In our earlier testimonies, we emphasized that the District was about 1 year
                        behind recommended schedules; had no margin for taking corrective
Columbia Has Further    actions if needed; and, consequently, should complete business continuity
Strengthened Its Y2K    and contingency plans as early as possible to allow time for their testing.
                        Since our February testimony, the District has taken actions to strengthen
Program, But Is Still   its Y2K project management and continuity and contingency planning. For
Behind Schedule         example, the District has done the following.

                        • Hired an outside contractor to review its project plan, which tracks
                          baseline and actual milestone dates as well as completion progress, to
                          identify inconsistencies in terms of task sequencing, critical path
                          dependencies, and updating practices.
                        • Regularly updated its Year 2000 Enterprise Plan and produced a series
                          of variance reports to identify and categorize project milestones
                          extending beyond established date thresholds.
                        • Hired an outside contractor to oversee the contingency planning effort,
                          establish planning priorities in accordance with current project risks,
                          develop a mechanism for tracking plan implementation and testing in
                          detail, and ensure that the Mayor is provided with accurate, up-to-date
                          information on the contingency planning effort.
                        • Participated in the Metropolitan Council of Government’s Contingency
                          Planning drill held on September 1, 1999, and plans to conduct two drills
                          of its own before January 1, 2000.
                        • Beginning in June, started to regularly convene its Year 2000 Steering
                          Committee, chaired by Mayor Williams, that brings together top-level
                          decisionmakers from the District’s 18 priority agencies, the Control
                          Board, and the City Council.
                        • Taken steps to establish consistent status reporting across agencies and
                          reconcile differences in data reported by the agencies and the Year 2000

                        Page 3                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
                                     Program Office, which were discovered when preparing the District’s
                                     most recent Y2K status report for OMB.

                                 While these measures have helped the District to strengthen its ability to
                                 oversee the Y2K effort and to better target management attention on
                                 high-risk areas, the District has not been able to fully compensate for its
                                 late start. This is not surprising given the pervasive nature of the Y2K
                                 problem and the complexity involved in fixing systems and ensuring core
                                 business processes can continue operating into 2000, especially for a highly
                                 decentralized entity such as the District.

System Remediation Status        As of September 20, the District’s Chief Technology Officer reported the
                                 status of the District’s Y2K conversion effort for its mission-critical
                                 software applications as follows. Of a total of 223 mission-critical
                                 applications, 130 were tested and determined to be ready for the year 2000.
                                 Of the remaining 93 mission-critical applications, 70 were reported as
                                 currently undergoing testing, and 23 were reported as still being
                                 remediated. It should be noted, however, that the status information being
                                 reported by the District’s Chief Technology Officer is not consistent with
                                 information being reported separately by District agencies. For example, in
                                 its third quarter Y2K status report to OMB, the District’s Year 2000 Program
                                 Office, reported that 74 systems are being replaced across the most
                                 important, “top 18” agencies, while the agencies report that 35 systems are
                                 being replaced. This raises the concern that District managers are not
                                 getting accurate enough data on system status on which to base their
                                 Y2K-related decisions. District officials told us that they are in the process
                                 of reconciling these data differences.

Status of Mission-Critical       Given the short time left before the Y2K deadline and the extent of the
Projects in the District’s Top   work remaining, the District is now concentrating its efforts on 56 mission-
                                 critical projects across its top 18 agencies (which include, for example, the
18 Agencies
                                 Metropolitan Police Department, Fire and Emergency Medical Services
                                 Department, Emergency Management Agency, and Water and Sewer
                                 Authority, among other important agencies). The projects can include
                                 specific software applications, software infrastructure (e.g., computer
                                 operating systems, system utilities, and databases), and “porting”6 software

                                 Translating software to run on a different computer and/or operating system.

                                 Page 4                                                                GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
to Y2K-compliant hardware. According to the District’s Year 2000
Enterprise Plan, which was last updated September 16, 1999, a number of
the 56 ongoing projects are not scheduled to be tested or implemented until
November and December 1999.

• Testing: As of September 16, the Year 2000 Enterprise Plan shows that
  four projects will not be tested until November and another seven in
  December. As shown in figure 1, this presumes that there will be no
  schedule slippage on the bulk of testing that is planned for this month
  and next month. While the District has no other option, completing this
  effort so close to the Y2K deadline is risky since the testing phase is
  extremely complex and time-consuming. Y2K conversions often involve
  numerous large systems with extensive supporting technology
  infrastructures. As such, before testing can even begin, organizations
  must develop test plans, define and secure test resources, establish the
  test environment, develop guidance, and ensure that vendor-supported
  products and services are Y2K compliant. Once this is done, tests need
  to be conducted in an incremental fashion, starting first at the software
  unit level and moving through software integration and system
  acceptance. When feasible, organizations should also conduct end-to-
  end tests on their core business processes to ensure that the systems
  that collectively support the processes can still effectively interoperate.

Page 5                                                      GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
Figure 1: Testing Schedule as of September 16, 1999

                                         • Implementation: Similarly, the District plans to finish the
                                           implementation of eight projects during November and another seven in
                                           December. Figure 2 illustrates the District’s schedule for completing its
                                           implementation work.

                                         Page 6                                                    GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
Figure 2: Implementation Schedule as of September 16, 1999

                                         Additionally, the District’s schedules are showing some slippage, further
                                         compounding its risk. Based on our analysis of the Year2000 Enterprise
                                         Plan updates, we found that−since the end of July−29 projects have
                                         implementation milestones that have slipped an average of about 2 months.

Embedded Processor                       The District reports that it is faring somewhat better in fixing its equipment
Conversion Schedule                      and infrastructure devices with embedded processors that are also
                                         vulnerable to Y2K problems (for example, elevators, medical equipment,
                                         and alarm systems). Seven of the District’s top 18 agencies are reported to
                                         be 100 percent complete, 9 are reported to be between 91 and 99 percent
                                         complete, 1 is shown as 72 percent complete, and 1 is reported as
                                         66 percent complete. Figure 3 illustrates the District’s schedule for
                                         completing its embedded work.

                                         Page 7                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
Figure 3: Schedule for Completing Embedded Systems/Equipment as of September 16, 1999

Business Continuity and                Recognizing the risk associated with its Y2K schedule, the District has
Contingency Planning                   implemented a well-defined business continuity and contingency planning
                                       effort for its core business processes that is divided into three phases:
                                       • Phase 1 is focused on defining a high-level business continuity strategy
                                         for each core business process, providing a sense of response to key
                                         asset failures.
                                       • Phase 2 is focused on adding the detail to the plans needed for their
                                         testing, refinement, and execution. For example, continuity planning
                                         teams will document workaround procedures, describe business
                                         process interrelationships, and define resource requirements.
                                       • Phase 3 is focused on executing the plans and returning to normal

                                       These efforts, too, are running late. The District’s September 16 Enterprise
                                       Plan for its top 18 agencies shows that although Phase 1 is largely
                                       complete, 11 Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs

                                       Page 8                                                     GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
                                        Phase 1 plans are not finished. As shown in figure 4, Phase 2 contingency
                                        planning is not expected to be done until close to the century change on
                                        January 2000.

Figure 4: Phase2 Contingency Planning Schedule as of September 3, 1999

                                        District contingency planning officials did not have current data on
                                        whether Phase 2 planning milestones were being met. They told us that
                                        they are working with the heads of the top 18 agencies, the Interim City
                                        Administrator, Chief Financial Officer, Chief Technology Officer, and the
                                        Chief Procurement Officer to assess the exact status and costs of ongoing
                                        continuity and contingency planning efforts and to determine priorities.

                                        Contingency planning officials advised us that the status of this effort
                                        would be monitored in accordance with the 5 key planning activities
                                        described in the District’s Phase 2 planning methodology:

                                        • assessing Phase 1 contingency plans for feasibility,
                                        • ensuring that Phase 1 plans are executable,
                                        • training staff to execute the contingency plans,

                                        Page 9                                                      GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
                               • testing the contingency plans, and
                               • testing plans for returning to normal operations.

Steps the District Must Take   At this point in time, the District can do little to increase the rate of
to Mitigate Risks in the       progress on system remediation and testing. However, the District can
                               improve its chances for success by better using the tools it has at hand. By
Remaining Months
                               more aggressively monitoring the status of key projects and ensuring that
                               its status information is accurate, District management can be better-
                               equipped to focus attention on projects running late and redirect resources,
                               if necessary, to ensure that the most critical processes are remediated and
                               tested on time.

                               Also, viable business continuity plans are important to all organizations—
                               even those that have already completed remediation and testing. They are
                               especially critical to the District because of the real possibility that
                               remediation and testing may not be complete by year’s end.

                               Mr. Chairman, this concludes my testimony on the District’s Y2K status.
                               However, I would like to briefly discuss the District’s opportunities for
                               using its efforts over the past year as a springboard for improving city
                               services in the future. While the immediate focus for the District over the
                               next 98 days should be on assessing potential risks and business impacts
                               and on prioritizing its remaining efforts, in the long term, the District, like
                               many other organizations confronting the Y2K problem, has a unique
                               opportunity to build on the experience it has gained in putting together its
                               Y2K effort.

                               The simple reason that the District is so far behind in addressing the Y2K
                               problem is that it did not have effective management over its information
                               technology assets and projects. The District had no management process in
                               place that provided adequate attention to the pending Y2K problem. As a
                               result, it started very late and will finish late. Further, the project team was
                               hampered by a lack of a comprehensive system inventory and limited
                               documentation on key business processes and the systems that supported
                               those processes. Our past reviews of key District systems have also

                               Page 10                                                       GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
identified problems in establishing clear project requirements, risk
management, security, and software acquisition. 7

By capitalizing on recent Y2K-related experience, the District can
implement management processes and controls needed to ensure that its
technology assets are effectively supporting city operations. For example:

• The District has learned that Y2K efforts cannot succeed without the
  involvement of top-level managers at the agency level and citywide
  level. Best practices have shown that top executives need to be similarly
  engaged in periodic assessments of major information technology
  investments to prioritize projects and make sound funding decisions.8
  Such involvement is also critical to breaking down cultural and
  organizational impediments.
• The District has recognized that having complete and accurate
  information on information systems can facilitate remediation, testing,
  and validation efforts. Maintaining reliable, up-to-date system
  information, including a system inventory, is also fundamental to
  well-managed information technology programs since it can provide
  senior managers with timely and accurate information on system costs,
  schedule, and performance.
• The District has developed a better understanding of its core business
  processes and made some progress in prioritizing its mission-critical
  systems based on their impact on these processes and the relative
  importance of the processes themselves. Once the Y2K program is
  completed, the District can build on these efforts to ensure that
  information technology initiatives will optimize business processes as
  well as to identify and retire duplicative or unproductive systems.
• Like many organizations, the District found that special measures were
  needed to build the technical expertise required to assist with all phases
  of the Y2K correction process. The same solutions should be pursued
  for the long term to enhance overall information technology

 District of Columbia: Weaknesses in Personnel Records and Public Schools’ Management
Information and Controls (GAO/T-AIMD-95-170, June 14, 1995) and District of Columbia:
Software Acquisition Processes for a New Financial Management System (GAO/AIMD-98-88,
April 30, 1998).
 Executive Guide: Improving Mission Performance Through Strategic Information
Management and Technology (GAO/AIMD-94-115, May 1994) and Assessing Risks and
Returns: A Guide for Evaluating Federal Agencies’ IT Investment Decision-making
(GAO/AIMD-10.1.13, February 1997).

Page 11                                                           GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
                   Mr. Chairman, this concludes my statement. I will be happy to answer any
                   questions you or Members of the Subcommittee may have.

Contact and        For further information regarding this testimony, please contact Jack L.
                   Brock, Jr. at (202) 512-6240 or by email at brockj.aimd@gao.gov.

(511157)   Leter   Page 12                                                    GAO/T-AIMD-99-297
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