Year 2000 Computing Challenge:

Readiness Improving, But Critical Risks Remain

T-AIMD-99-49: Published: Jan 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Jan 20, 1999.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the progress being made in addressing the year 2000 computing challenge and outlined the actions that need to be taken to ensure a smooth conversion to the next century.

GAO noted that: (1) since February 1997, action to address the year 2000 threat has intensified; (2) in response to a growing recognition of the challenge and urging from congressional leaders and others, the administration strengthened the government's year 2000 preparation, and expanded its outlook beyond federal agencies; (3) the Office of Management and Budget has tightened requirements on agency reporting of year 2000 progress; (4) as federal agencies have more fully realized the complexities and extent of necessary year 2000 activities, their costs have correspondingly risen; (5) many congressional committees have played a central role in addressing the Y2K challenge by holding agencies accountable for demonstrating progress and by heightening public appreciation of the problem; (6) the Senate formed a Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, which held hearings on the readiness of key economic sectors, including power, health care, telecommunications, transportation, financial services, emergency services, and general business; (7) in October 1998, Congress passed--and the President signed--the Year 2000 Information and Readiness Disclosure Act; (8) its purposes include: (a) promoting the free disclosure and exchange of information related to year 2000 readiness; and (b) lessening the burdens on interstate commerce by establishing certain uniform legal principals in connection with the disclosure and exchange of information related to year 2000 readiness; (9) GAO has been actively working with the Congress as well as federal agencies to both strengthen agency processes and to evaluate their progress in addressing these challenges; (10) while much has been accomplished and real progress has been made in addressing the year 2000 problem, both risks and challenges remain; (11) some major agencies are significantly behind schedule and are at high risk that they will not correct all of their mission-critical systems in time; (12) thorough testing is essential to providing reasonable assurance that new or modified systems can process dates correctly and will not jeopardize an organization's ability to perform core business functions after the change of the century; (13) the nation's reliance on the complex array of public and private enterprises having scores of system interdependencies at all levels accentuates the potential repercussions a single failure could cause; and (14) it is essential that year 2000 issues be adequately addressed in other arenas, such as state and local governments, the public infrastructures, and other key economic sectors.

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