Year 2000 Computing Challenge:

Education Taking Needed Actions But Work Remains

T-AIMD-99-180: Published: May 12, 1999. Publicly Released: May 12, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Department of Education's efforts to ensure that its computer systems supporting critical student financial aid activities will be able to process information reliably through the turn of the century, focusing on: (1) the progress Education has made to date in making its information systems year 2000 compliant; and (2) the future tasks facing the department.

GAO noted that: (1) as of March 31, 1999, Education reported that all of its 14 mission-critical systems--including the 11 student financial aid delivery systems--were year 2000 compliant and in operation; (2) GAO's review of three of these systems found adequate test documentation; (3) however, the department has not yet closed out four of its systems as completing the year 2000 compliance process in accordance with Education-specific guidance; other systems issues also remain outstanding, although they are generally considered low-risk; (4) testing of data exchanges and end-to-end testing of key business processes are continuing according to the department's schedule, as is the refinement of business continuity and contingency plans; (5) while much of the work on renovating and validating mission-critical systems has been completed, and the risk of student financial aid delivery system failures has been significantly reduced, the department needs to continue making year 2000 a top priority; and (6) accordingly, it needs to focus particular attention on the following activities: (a) expeditiously resolving open issues delaying certification of the remaining four mission-critical systems still pending formal closeout; (b) continue resolving and tracking open issues, including environmental or functional changes made to existing systems; in doing so, ensure the involvement of independent verification and validation (IV&V) contractors; (c) ensuring that the new Recipient Financial Management System has been adequately tested for year 2000 compliance as each phase is implemented between now and August; (d) continue end-to-end testing of critical business processes involving Education's internal systems and its external data exchange partners; (e) ensure that results are monitored for completeness and any problems that may arise are addressed promptly--including concerns raised by the IV&V contractors; (f) continue outreach activities with schools, guaranty agencies, and other participants in the student financial aid community to share successes and lessons learned to help further reduce the likelihood of year 2000 failures; and (g) continue refining and testing the student financial aid business continuity and contingency plans, encouraging the involvement of post secondary institutions, guaranty agencies, and other external trading partners.

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