Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Testing and Other Challenges Confronting Federal Agencies

T-AIMD-98-218: Published: Jun 22, 1998. Publicly Released: Jun 22, 1998.

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GAO discussed: (1) the year 2000 risks facing the government; (2) major concerns with the government's progress in fixing its systems; and (3) guidance on year 2000 testing, which is designed to assist agencies in the most extensive and expensive part of remediation.

GAO noted that: (1) addressing the year 2000 problem in time will be a tremendous challenge for the federal government; (2) to complicate matters, agencies must consider the computer systems belonging to federal, state, and local governments; the private sector; foreign countries; and international organizations that interface with their systems; (3) the year 2000 could cause problems for the many facilities used by the federal government that were built or renovated within the last 20 years and contain embedded computer systems to control, monitor, or assist in operations; (4) if agencies neglect any of these issues, the impact of year 2000 failures could be widespread, costly and potentially disruptive to vital government operations worldwide; (5) overall, the government's 24 major departments and agencies are making slow progress in fixing their systems; (6) many agencies were not adequately acting on critical steps to establish priorities, solidify data exchange agreements, and develop contingency plans; (7) some agencies are not adequately prepared for testing their systems for year 2000 compliance; (8) complete and thorough year 2000 testing is essential to provide reasonable assurance that new or modified systems process dates correctly and will not jeopardize an organization's ability to perform core business operations after the millenium; (9) since the year 2000 computing problem is so pervasive, the requisite testing is extensive and expensive; (10) to address the testing problem, GAO issued a new installment of its year 2000 guidance which addresses the need to plan and conduct year 2000 tests in a structured and disciplined fashion; (11) if effectively implemented, the guide should help federal agencies successfully negotiate the complexities involved with the year 2000 testing process; and (12) however, the success of the government's year 2000 remediation efforts ultimately hinges on setting governmentwide priorities, ensuring that agencies set priorities and develop contingency plans consistent with these priorities, developing an accurate picture of remediation progress, designating lead agencies for end-to-end testing efforts, and addressing other critical issues such as recruiting and retaining qualified information technology personnel.

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