Conclusions from Willemssen Testimony : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Today, I submitted the following to senior management at my company. It ties in a bit with a thread started by Milne. Thought I might post it here. ------------------------------------------------------------- John Koskinen is Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. He was appointed in February 1998 by Executive Order 13073. Mr. Koskinens job makes him responsible for coordinating the Federal Government's efforts to address the Year 2000 problem. He also addresses this issue as a mouthpiece for President Clinton.

Joel Willemssen holds the title, Director of Civil Agencies Information Systems for the GAO, the federal governments watchdog. Since 1997, he has repeatedly alerted our nations leadership to the ramifications of Year 2000. His official job in Washington is to declare, usually by way of committee or by the release of GAO report, when the government is falling down on the job.

On January 11, Mr. Koskinen released his first quarterly report on Year 2000 progress by our nation.

On January 20, Mr. Willemssen gave testimony on Year 2000 progress by our nation before the Subcommittee on Government Management, Information, and Technology.

Mr. Koskinen can be characterized as an optimist about Y2K. He is increasingly confident.

Mr. Willemssen can be characterized as a pessimist. He feels our entire way of life, in essence, is at risk.

Since I have given you the first report by Mr. Koskinen, I felt it fair to give you Mr. Willemssens testimony. In it, he addresses flagrant lapses of information upon which the Presidents Council (Mr. Koskinen) based conclusions.

As we get closer, I intend to alert you to areas where growing concern mounts. Id like to quote some of his testimony.

The public faces a risk that critical services provided by the government and the private sector could be severely disrupted by the Year 2000 computing problem. Financial transactions could be delayed, flights grounded, power lost, and national defense affected. Moreover, Americas infrastructures are a complex array of public and private enterprises with many interdependencies at many levels. These many interdependencies among and within key economic sectors could cause a single failure to have adverse repercussions in other sectors. Key sectors that could be seriously affected if their systems are not Year 2000 compliant include information and telecommunications; banking and finance; health, safety, and emergency services; transportation; power and water; and manufacturing and small business.

To state the progress of the government, he mentions that in May 1997, 21% (1,598 of 7,649) of mission-critical systems were deemed compliant.

In mid-November 1998, 61% (4,069 of 6,696) of mission-critical systems were deemed compliant.

The federal government fixed 2,471 systems during the 80 weeks between reporting periods. Thats an average of almost 30.9 systems per week, an astonishing statistic. There are 59 weeks from mid-November, 1998, to January 1, 2000. At their averaged rate, the government will remediate 1,823 systems by the turn of the millennium. However, the government had 2,627 systems remaining. This indicates that 804 mission-critical systems will not be compliant by 2000.

I think it fair to say that some level of critical failure by our federal government, therefore, is obvious. Certainly, Im cutting the numbers without mercy here, but a number of arguments presented by Mr. Willemssen lead me to expect that the number of system failures to be even higher than the one Ive mentioned. Among the causes, he lists:

1. Since February 1997, estimated repair costs have tripled. This isnt because the work is becoming easier, so I dont expect the work to suddenly speed up. 2. Most agencies have slipped and missed their deadlines during this project. 3. In September 1998, 25% of the agencies had validated less than half of their fixes. 4. Most hadnt completed the inventory/assessment of their telecommunications/embedded systems. 5. Retaining staff is increasingly becoming an issue.

If you skip to page 13 of the testimony, he addresses the matters of Power, Water, Telecommunications, Health, Safety and Emergency Services, Banking and Finance, Transportation, and Manufacturing and Small Business. I urge you to read through these sections.

Its also important to know the number of non mission-critical systems when understanding the preparedness of the federal government. Our government, like any enterprise, probably retains some level of bloat  systems that actually dont have to be fixed because they are unimportant to the most basic operations.

 The number of mission-critical systems for the federal government is 6,696 (today).  The number of non mission-critical systems for the federal government is over 65,000. In other words, the government does not plan to fix 65,000 of its current systems by January 1, 2000.

I think our government has a hard enough time running with 100% of its systems on-line. How efficient can it be with less than 10% of its systems reliably on-line?

Though governments are typically seen to impede business in everyday affairs of life, it is actually governments that provide the critical infrastructure of our society. From inter-bank wire transfers that flow through the Federal Reserve to HCFA that pays doctors and hospitals for Medicare/Medicaid patients to managing the sewers that lie beneath our cities, we need the government to operate no slower than it does today. Given the information we have, Id say it is a certainty a slowdown will occur. Most people have the impression that within a week or two, things will be back to normal. But while the government is fixing an incredible 30 systems per week, even if they finish all mission-critical systems by 2000, 90% of the work is still in front of them  they wont do that in a week or two.

-- Brett (, January 25, 1999


Thank you for bringing up the critical/non-critical systems issue. I think that it is correct to assume that things will take longer because of all of the systems that are no longer properly functioning. I would like to see some statistics on the number of non-critical systems that will have to be repaired after the year 2000 in the U.S. alone. This makes it quite clear that there will be an economic consequence to Y2K.

-- Reporter (, January 25, 1999.

Brett -- you probably have seen Gershwin's report:

If not it's here.

It ties in well with Willemssen's report, with emphasis on readiness of other countries and our vulnerability to their problems.

-- Tom Carey (, January 25, 1999.

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