Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

State Department Needs To Make Fundamental Improvements To Its Year 2000 Program

AIMD-98-162: Published: Aug 28, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 28, 1998.

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Jack L. Brock, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Department of State's progress in solving its year 2000 computer systems problem, focusing on the: (1) overall status of State's efforts to identify and correct its date-sensitive systems; and (2) appropriateness of State's strategy and actions to correct its year 2000 problems.

GAO noted that: (1) State has taken many positive actions to increase awareness, promote sharing of information, and encourage its bureaus to make year 2000 remediation efforts a high priority; (2) however, State's progress in responding to the problem has been slow; (3) for example, of the 40 systems that State identified as mission critical and needing either converting or replacing, only 17 (42.5 percent) have completed renovation; (4) more importantly, until recently, State's year 2000 effort lacked a mission-based perspective, that is, it had not determined its core business functions or linked these functions to its mission or to the support systems necessary to conduct these operations; (5) because the year 2000 problem is primarily a business problem, agencies need to take a business perspective in all aspects of it; that is, they should identify their core business areas and processes and assess the impact of system failures; (6) until it takes these steps, State will not have a good basis for prioritizing its systems for the purposes of correction or developing contingency plans that focus on the continuity of operations; (7) in responding to GAO's draft report, State noted that it has recently determined its core business functions and linked these functions to its mission; (8) it has not yet linked its core business functions to support systems necessary to conduct these operations; (9) State has not been managing the identification and correction of its interfaces effectively; (10) specifically, it is still identifying its interfaces, even though this task should have been completed in the assessment phase, and it has developed written agreements with data exchange partners for only a small portion of its systems; and (11) as a result, State has increased the risk that year 2000 errors will be propagated from one organization's systems to another's.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that senior program managers and the Chief Information Officer reassess all of State's systems using the new mission-based approach to identify those systems supporting the most critical business operations.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The State Department did not conduct a mission-based reassessment of its mission-critical systems. The State Department believes such prioritization is best conducted separately by its various bureaus, arguing that a department-wide reassessment would have reached the same general ordering of priorities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that senior program managers and the Chief Information Officer ensure that systems identified as supporting critical business functions pursuant to recommendation 1 receive priority attention and resources over those systems that do not support critical business functions.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State officials reported that all Y2K repairs for mission-critical systems were implemented as of May 1999.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that senior program managers and the Chief Information Officer redirect its contingency planning efforts to focus on the core business functions and supporting systems, particularly those supporting systems that are already scheduled to miss the Office of Management and Budget milestone date for implementation.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State officials report that contingency plans have been prepared for 52 of its 59 mission critical systems. However, because State did not officially identify its core business functions, it has been unable to develop contingency plans for them and does not have plans to do so in the near future.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of State should ensure that senior program managers and the Chief Information Officer ensure that the bureaus have identified and corrected interfaces and developed written memorandums of agreement with interface partners.

    Agency Affected: Department of State

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: State officials report that they have identified and corrected all interfaces and now have Memoranda of Understanding in place with all interface partners.

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