Year 2000 Computing Challenge:

Lessons Learned Can Be Applied to Other Management Challenges

AIMD-00-290: Published: Sep 12, 2000. Publicly Released: Sep 30, 2000.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO (1) identified lessons the federal government has learned from year 2000 applicable to improving federal information technology (IT) management; (2) identified lessons that individual agencies can apply to the management of future IT initiatives; and (3) discussed how the momentum generated by the government's year 2000 efforts can be sustained.

GAO noted that: (1) the year 2000 challenge was met through the collaborative efforts of Congress, the administration, federal agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector; (2) had any of these sectors failed to take the year 2000 problem seriously, neglected to remediate computer systems, or failed to work together with partners on common issues, such as contingency planning, critical services could have been disrupted; (3) although the year 2000 crisis was finite, it led to the development of initiatives, processes, methodologies, and experiences that can assist in resolving ongoing management challenges; (4) year 2000 demonstrated the value of sustained and effective bipartisan oversight by both the Senate and the House of Representatives; (5) leadership, commitment, and coordination by the federal government, which included periodic reporting and oversight of agency efforts, were major reasons for the government's year 2000 success; (6) the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion and individual agencies formed working partnerships with other agencies, states, other countries, and the private sector; (7) communication within agencies, with partners, and with the public was vital to coordinating efforts and ensuring an appropriate public response; (8) the federal government implemented initiatives that helped ensure that necessary staff and financial resources would be available to agencies; (9) individual agencies also gleaned lessons form their year 2000 efforts that can be carried forward; (10) specific management practices that contributed to year 2000 success included top-level management attention, risk analysis, project management, development of complete information systems inventories and strengthened configuration management, independent reviews by internal auditors and independent contractors, improved testing methods and procedures, and business continuity and contingency planning; and (11) by continuing and strengthening these practices in the future, federal agencies are more likely to improve their overall IT management record, particularly in the areas of critical infrastructure protection and security, the effective use of technology, and large-scale IT investments.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: This matter has been substantially implemented through enactment of the E-Government Act of 2002 (P.L. 107-347) on December 17, 2002. The act required the establishment of the Office of Electronic Government within the Office of Management and Budget, to be led by a Presidentially appointed administrator. OMB established this office on April 17, 2003. The responsibilities of the Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government, as outlined in the act, substantially address key functions of a federal CIO, as specified in our matter for consideration. For example, the act instructs the Administrator to assist the Director of OMB in (1) establishing policies that set the framework for IT standards; (2) providing overall leadership and direction to the executive branch on electronic government; (3) promoting innovative uses of IT by agencies, particularly initiatives involving multiagency collaboration, (4) leading the federal CIO Council's activities, which are intended to ensure interagency coordination; and (5) sponsoring an ongoing dialog among federal, state, local and tribal government leaders on electronic government in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches, as well as leaders in the private and nonprofit sectors to encourage collaboration and innovative approaches in acquiring, using and managing information resources. In addressing these functions, the Administrator of the Office of Electronic Government is positioned to provide the comprehensive and focused leadership that is of paramount importance in helping the federal government invest wisely in future IT projects and provide a secure IT environment.

    Matter: To improve federal government information resources and technology management, address emerging issues, such as e-government, and sustain the focused attention that was developed to address the Year 2000 challenge, Congress may wish to establish a formal Chief Information Officer (CIO) position for the federal government to provide central leadership and support. A federal Chief Information Officer could bring about ways to use IT to better serve the public, facilitate improving access to government services, and help restore confidence in the national government. With respect to specific responsibilities, a federal CIO could be responsible for key functions, such as developing information resources and technology management policies and standards,overseeing federal agency IT activities, managing crosscutting issues, ensuring interagency coordination, serving as the nation's chief IT spokesman internationally, and maintaining appropriate partnerships with state, local, and tribal governments and the private sector.


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