Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Challenges Still Facing the U.S. Postal Service

T-AIMD-99-86: Published: Feb 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Feb 23, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Postal Service's (USPS) conversion strategy for preparing for the year 2000 crisis, focusing on: (1) year 2000 planning documents and their year 2000 guidance; and (2) internal development standards.

GAO noted that: (1) for USPS to ensure continuity of operations after the century date change, it must assess, remediate, and validate several interlocking components of its operating and support infrastructure; (2) USPS has 152 severe and critical business systems that it must assess, correct, and verify to ensure year 2000 compliance; (3) USPS also owns 349 important business systems--systems for which workarounds exist and whose failure will result in an inconvenience, but not significantly impact core business activities; (4) in addition to business systems, USPS relies on a broad range of equipment to sort, deliver, and process mail; (5) USPS has estimated that it has over 100,000 pieces of hardware and software to assess and correct when necessary, including mainframe computers, personal computers, networks, and operating systems; (6) USPS systems interface with computer systems belonging to federal, state, and local governments and hundreds of private businesses; (7) because of these interdependencies, postal systems are also vulnerable to failure caused by incorrectly formatted data provided by other systems that are noncompliant; (8) while USPS' progress in renovating its systems has picked up in recent months, USPS has lagged behind the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and GAO's recommended milestones for assessment, renovation, and validation; (9) as of the OMB validation deadline of January 1999, only 27 percent of its mission-critical systems had been validated; (10) in December 1998, USPS reorganized its program management to better reflect year 2000 efforts in terms of its business operations; (11) this new management approach offers the USPS an improved opportunity for linking business processes to year 2000 problems and solutions; (12) even with a stronger management structure now in place, there are substantial challenges still facing USPS; and (13) if they are not addressed adequately, these challenges will threaten the USPS' ability to deliver the mail--on time--next January.

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