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Postal service Y2K readiness crucial to nation) (650)

By Leslie Koelsch USIA Staff Writer

Washington -- All the U.S. government agencies are at work on contingency and business continuity plans for delivery of their products and services, in case Y2K-related computer problems arise in various sectors of the American economy. The U.S. Postal Service (USPS), the agency that delivers the mail in the United States, plays a central role in other agencies' contingency planning.

How does one of the largest operations in the federal government, one that relies heavily on automated systems to deliver 650 million pieces of mail to millions of households and businesses, nationally and internationally, prepare for the Y2K computer problem?

This was the chief issue raised at the House Ways and Means Committee hearing February 23 at which several representatives from USPS and the General Accounting Office (GAO) testified. Jack Brock, director of government-wide and defense information systems at GAO, said USPS has been working on its Y2K problems since 1993, but because of the mammoth task it faces, has fallen behind the Office of Management and Budget's schedule for system renovation. The service still needs to complete system and mail processing equipment correction and testing, ensure the readiness of hundreds of local facilities, and determine the ability of key suppliers.

Karol Corcoran, USPS inspector general, testified that to date the Postal Service has spent $200 million addressing Y2K concerns, and is on target to spend another $400 million to resolve its Y2K problems. She stressed that because the Postal Service relies on automated systems and plays a key role in the country's commerce and communications infrastructure, its preparedness is crucial to the nation's Y2K readiness.

Brock noted that only the Department of Defense has more complex systems. The problem for USPS is not so much making sure mission-critical systems work, but of ensuring that the whole work environment will function properly.

Congresswoman Connie Morella from Maryland recently returned from Indonesia and Japan, and said she was surprised that most officials she spoke to knew little about the Y2K computer problem, and less about what the different aspects of their countries' governments were doing about it. What was the USPS doing to ensure delivery of international mail, she asked?

Norman Lorentz, USPS chief technology officer, answered that the service, through its International Business Unit, is participating in Y2K discussions led by the Universal Postal Union and the International Postal Corporation. The Universal Postal Union is a specialized agency within the United Nations representing almost 200 postal administrations, which monitors the industry. The International Postal Corporation represents 21 highly automated postal administrations. Both organizations lead forums that discuss, among other issues, Y2K.

In USPS contingency planning, international mail has the same level of importance as domestic mail. However, as officials testified, USPS can only guarantee its own service. When an American sends a letter to an address in Germany, for example, the U.S. Postal Service is responsible for transport until it reaches the German border, where it becomes the German Postal Service's duty to deliver it. The question of where other countries' postal services are in their efforts to alleviate Y2K-related problems was not discussed at the hearing. Lorentz did state that if a foreign postal administration significantly slowed mail delivery, it would be shut off from USPS to avoid computer problems filtering into the United States.

Y2K is not the first test of the Postal Service's resilience; it has found ways to deliver the mail through labor strikes, natural disasters, and war. While USPS recognizes the Y2K challenges it faces, its officials remain confident that it can meet the challenge of protecting universal service and absorb the additional volumes of mail that could be diverted if other forms of communication fail because of the Y2K problem.

-- (Busy@the.top), March 08, 1999



-- (who@who.edu), March 08, 1999.

I thought they were gonna hire Kevin Costner...

-- g (kevinc@anotherbomb.com), March 08, 1999.

g..love it!

-- Mike Lang (webflier@erols.com), March 08, 1999.

They'll never make it. Got pony express?

-- Bender (now@risk.here), March 08, 1999.

If anyone in USIA had bothered to read Karla [sic] Corcoran's report on the USPS Y2K effort, the tone of this piece of floss candy would be a deal less cheery. In case anyone missed it, see Statement by KARLA W. CORCORAN, INSPECTOR GENERAL, UNITED STATES POSTAL SERVICE

Here's a long and interesting recent thread on this in the archives USPS Going Down Very Hard and There Is NO Fix

-- Tom Carey (tomcarey@mindspring.com), March 09, 1999.

Reports not up yet. Soon. -- Diane

GAO: Recent Reports (Arranged by Title)

http:// www.gao.gov/new.items/newtitle.htm

Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Challenges Still Facing the U.S. Postal Service, by Jack L. Brock, Jr., Director of Governmentwide and Defense Information Systems Issues, before subcommittees of the House Committee on Science. GAO/T-AIMD-99-86, Feb. 23.

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 09, 1999.

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