Statement by Kathleen Adams,
Chairperson, Cheif Information Officers Cuncil Subcommittee
before the Committee on Science
Subcommittee on Technology
and Committee on Government Reform and Oversight
July 10, 1997
Madame Chairman, Mr. Chairman, and Members of the Subcommittees:
I am Kathleen Adams, Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Systems for the Social Security Administration, but I am appearing today in my capacity as Chair of the Chief Information Officers (CIA) Council Subcommittee on Year 2000. I appreciate the opportunity to discuss the efforts of the CIa Council Subcommittee on Year 2000, formerly known as the Year 2000 Interagency Committee. I will begin by outlining the reasons why systems changes are needed to deal with the year 2000 and then describe what the Subcommittee is doing to help Federal agencies address the problem, so that the transition to the new century is a smooth one.
Reason Change Is Needed
As you are well aware, a unique event will take place on January 1, 2000. On that day, we will experience the first century change since the start of the computer era. This event poses enormous challenges for the data processing community, as public and private sector organizations around the world prepare for the single largest integration feat since computers entered our daily lives.
The reason that the century change poses a problem is that many computer programs store and use only the last two digits of a year and assume that the first two digits are 19. Under this practice, computer logic operations work as long as dates are in the same century, but problems arise when it is necessary to usc dates in two different ccnruries. For example, subtracting December 31, 1995, from December 31, 2005, to determine someone's age would produce the incorrect answer of minus 90 instead of the correct result of 10.
The interaction of dates among different programs, systems, agencies, and levels of government is one of the factors which make the Year 2000 issue so complex. Private industry faces these same issues.
Interagency Activities and the CIA Council
In the fall of 1995, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), recognizing the critical nature of the problem and that the Social Security Administrat ion (SSA) had taken positive steps to address it, asked SSA to be the champion for Ycar 2000 and increase awareness of the Year 2000 issue . In this role, we organized an informal committee which we called the Year 2000 Interagency Committee. The purpose of the Committee was to raise awareness of the Year 2000 and address cross-cutting issues which affected many or all Federal departments and agencies. The Committee began meet ing in November 1995 with only a few representatives attending. The number of participants grew steadily with each regular meeting as more and more departments and agencies became aware of the Committee's purpose. I might mention that the hearings which your Subcommittees held in the Spring of 1996 did much to increase awareness of the Year 2000 issue, and participation in the Year 2000 Interagency Committee grew rapidly as a result.
In August 1996, the Information Technology Management Reform Act, which was enacted as part of Public Law 104-106, became effective and mandated a CIA Council to review and provide guidance on information technology issues across the Federal Government. At the CIA Council's first meeting in August 1996, it decided that the Year 2000 issue was one of the most pressing information technology issues facing the government. In November 1996, the Council made the Year 2000 Interagency Committee an official subcommittee of the Council, and our name became the CIA Council Subcommittee on Year 2000.
While our name changed, and we now have official status, our purpose has not changed. The Subcommittee's role is to raise awareness of the Year 2000 issue, address facets of the issue that cut across government, seek mutual solutions where possible, and share best practices.
Our official role has, however, given us some distinct advantages. As Chair of the Subcommittee, I attend meetings of the CIO Council to provide monthly status reports on Subcommittee activities and bring to the Council issues requiring its attention or a decision. In addition, the Council's focus on information technology issues gives the Subcommittee's activities more visibility within the Federal agencies.
It is important to keep in mind that each agency must find solutions to the Year 2000 issue that meet its unique needs, since there is no single approach that all agencies can employ. While each agency head and CIO is responsible for ensuring that his or her systems function properly on January 1, 2000, the focus of the Subcommittee is to facilitate this major undertaking by addressing cross-cutting aspects of the problem, such as interagency data exchanges, availability of various vendor products, and sources of mutual help across agencies.
Accomplishments of the CIO Council Subcommittee on Year 2000
I believe the Subcommittee is meeting its goal to raise awareness of the Year 2000 issue and facilitate timely action. The Subcommittee can point to solid accomplishments, including development of:
- A Year 2000 website on the General Services Administration (GSA) homepage, which can be reached at www.itpolicy.gsa.gov;
- Briefings on the Year 2000 issue and its ramifications for numerous government agencies, including State agencies;
- A recommended four digit year standard for interagency data exchanges, which was done in conjunction with the National Institute of Standards and Technology and approved by the CIO Council;
- A definition of Year 2000 Compliancy, which was published in the Federal Acquisition Regulation on an interim basis in January 1997;
- Standard contract language for procurement of vendor products and services to ensure they are Year 2000 compliant;
- A framework for evaluating and dealing with Year 2000 issues--a Best Practices guide for all levels of government; and
- Contacts and information exchanges with information technology industry groups to increase their awareness of how government agencies are dealing with the Year 2000 problem and address issues of mutual concern.
In addition, the Committee sponsored two conferences to bring together the stakebolders, both from inside and outside government, on the Year 2000 issue. The Subcommittee, SSA, and the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association (commonly known as AFCEA) sponsored the Millennium Time Bomb Conference on May 2, 1996, in Washington, D.C. Almost 500 people from Government agencies and private sector firms attended the conference to raise awareness of the Year 2000 problem and discuss experiences and approaches for addressing the problem. A follow-up conference called "Year 2000 Solutions: What Works" was held on March 5, 1997. Over 450 participants heard panelists representing Federal and State government and the private sector discuss the challenges and lessons learned in implementing their Year 2000 programs. The emphasis of this conference was on identifying solutions that are being used and are working. Twenty-seven vendors that have Year 2000 products or services were also present to answer questions and distribute product literature.
A significant accomplishment of the Year 2000 Interagency Committee is the formulation of our Best Practices guide to provide a framework for agencies to deal with the Year 2000 challenge. The guide is designed to assist Federal agencies in planning, managing, and evaluating their systems affected by the Year 2000 issue. The guide draws on the best practices of Federal agencies, as well as the private sector, for each phase of the process. These phases bave been defined as:
- The Awareness phase, in which the organization defines the Year 2000 problem and ensures that everyone in the organization is aware of the problem;
- The Assessment phase. in which the organization identifies core business areas. analyzes systems supporting these areas. and identifies resources;
- The Renovation phase. in which the organization converts databases and software and modifies interfaces;
- The Validation phase, in which the organization tests converted or replaced software; and
- The Implementation phase, in which the organization implements converted or replaced software and implements data exchange contingencies, where necessary.
Each agency will have to complete all the steps to be able to meet the challenges posed by the Year 2000 issue.
The best practices guide is availahle on the Year 2000 website, and is regularly updated to reflect current best practices.
In addition, the Subcommittee worked with OMS to develop the format for the quarterly status report each agency must submit to OMS regarding the progress of its Year 2000 program. OMS asked the Subcommittee to provide input on the report format. OMS wanted to obtain adequate information from each agency to track and monitor Year 2000 progress across Government and report to Congress. but did not want reporting to be so onerous that it would overburden the agencies with recordkeeping. Hopefully, the format for the agency status reports accomplishes these goals.
I think all Federal agencies recognize the importance of dealing with the Year 2000 issue, and they have been extremely cooperative in dealings with the Subcommittee on Year 2000. Our accomplishments would not have been possible without such complete support and cooperation.
CIO Council on Subcommittee on Year 2000 Activities
The Subcommittee is continually evaluating the need to deal with emerging facets of the Year 2000 issue. Since these issues are numerous and far-reaching. we have formed subgroups to focus on specific areas of the Year 2000 issue. We have subgroups to deal with:
- Best Practices--works on identifying best practices for Year 2000 solutions and updates the Best Practices guide;
- State Issues--works with the National Association of State Information Resources Executives (NASlRE) and other State groups to address State/Federal interface problems resulting from the Year 2000 issue, as well as items of mutual interest;
- Contract Language and GSA Schedules--works to standardize the definition of Year 2000 Compliance, provide contract language for Year 2000 compliant products, and make Year 2000 products and services available through GSA schedules;
- Data Exchange--works on problems relating to exchanges of data among Government agencies or the Government and third parties, particularly where multiple agencies are involved;
- Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) Software--works to obtain and provide information regarding whether commercial-off-the shelf software presently in use in Federal agencies functions or will function properly when handling dates beyond 1999;
- Telecommunications--works on issues affecting telecommunications;
- Biomedical--works on issues affecting biomedical equipment; and;
- Industry--works with industry information technology groups to increase awareness of the Government's need for Year 2000 services and products and addresses issues of mutual concern.
The subgroup structure has enabled us to focus resources on the individual facets of the Year 2000 issue by using the expertise of the Subcommittee members where it can do the most good.
We have been working effectively with the information technology industry on many issues of mutual concern. We have worked closely with the Information Technology Association of America (ITAA) and the Industry Advisory Council (lAC) on numerous issues, such as standard contract language, the need for contractor support services, and COTS software. We are encouraging the industry to advise government buyers as soon as possible when Year 2000 compliant versions of software packages will be released so that government agencies can better plan their implementation and testing programs. Many Year 2000 solutions will require close cooperation between Government and industry. The Subcommittee on Year 2000, since it represents all departments and agencies. has and will continue to facilitate that cooperation by being the focal point for contact with the information technology industry groups on the Year 2000 issue.
While we continue to work on the activities we have in progress. the Subcommittee is currently focusing on several areas of the Year 2000 issue that we think will facilitate agencies' ability to address the challenges of Year 2000. The Subcommittee is developing a database, to be made available throughout government, which will contain information regarding whether commercial-off-the-shelf (COTS) software presently in use in Federal agencies functions or will function properly when handling dates beyond 1999. The database will indicate whether the product is compliant and, if it is not, when the Year 2000 compliant version will be available.
Building one comprehensive database all agencies can use will save each agency the expense and time to construct its own database of all of its vendor products. This database is being built now and will be turned over to GSA to be maintained and made available on the Year 2000 web site. At the June 1997 cm Council Meeting , the Council approved the funds to maintain this database, which we call the Y2K COTS System. It presently contains information on almost 3000 products from over 600 vendors. It will be available on the web site in September 1997.
Another important issue that we are addressing is how to minimize the burden on State and local governments resulting from the Federal transition to Year 2000 compliant systems. The data exchanges, mandated or voluntary, between the different levels of government will all be affected by the changes made to deal with the Year 2000 issue. We are focusing on data exchanges where multiple agencies are involved to minimize the impacts on the States.
I should again point out that the responsibility for ensuring that the Government's systems will function properly in the Year 2000 issue lie with the head and Chief Information Officer of each deparnnent and agency. The Subcommittee on Year 2000, like the Interagency Committee before it, does not keep track of where agencies are in dealing with the Year 2000 issue or measure the effectiveness of each organization's plan to deal with the issue. OMS has had and continues to have that role.
In conclusion, it would be impossible to overstate the importance of the need for a smooth and timely transition of the Government' s systems to accommodate the Year 2000 as we enter that year. All of the departments and agencies participating in the Subcommittee on Year 2000 recognize that there is no question of what needs to be accomplished over the next several years, and no hesitancy to work together to address common issues. I can assure you that the Subcommittee on Year 2000 will continue its work in this critical undertaking.