No. of Y2K 'Critical' Systems Drops : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

By CHRIS ALLBRITTON AP Cyberspace Writer

NEW YORK (AP) - As the federal government approaches Wednesday's deadline for inoculating its ``mission-critical computers'' against the millennium bug, it turns out that some missions aren't so critical after all.

A study of the numbers of systems potentially vulnerable to the so-called Y2K bug shows that about one-third of them have simply dropped off the ``mission-critical'' list in recent months.

Government agencies ``are under tremendous pressure from Congress to hit their numbers, to be 100 percent compliant. And in a practical sense, they will do so even if they have to drop some of their mission-critical systems,'' said Robert Alloway, who worked for a congressional committee on Y2K and now runs the National Leadership Task Force on Y2K, an independent, non-profit organization.

In part, the phenomenon of ``disappearing'' (Alloway's term) is simply bureaucratic. Systems once defined as critical have ceased to be so, but it has taken the Y2K threat to galvanize the government into sorting them out.

But the ``disappearing'' - and the refusal of many agencies to spell out reasons for taking systems off the critical list - is stoking suspicions among some Y2K-watchers that the government is hiding something.

As the deadline nears, ``the pressure will only increase for organizations to define down their systems,'' said Ed Yardeni, chief economist for Deutsche Bank Securities in New York.

``Once an agency compiles its mission-critical systems, I don't think it should be able to change what's defined as mission-critical as the deadline approaches.''

The Y2K bug occurs because many computers programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year won't work properly beginning Jan. 1, 2000, when machines might assume it is 1900. Some computers can be reprogrammed, but many have embedded microchips that must be replaced.

The effect of the bug is largely unknown. Some, like Yardeni, predict chaos, huge power failures and nuclear accidents. Others say it will be no worse than a storm that briefly knocks out power.

In August 1997, the government listed 9,100 mission-critical systems, and its overall rating stood at 19.3 percent compliant, according to the General Accounting Office.

Since then, the government says, 3,298 systems have been fixed, and about 79 percent of its mission-critical systems are compliant.

But that figure would have been only 55.6 percent had 3,323 systems not been dropped or redefined, the GAO figures show.

John Koskinen, the chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, set a March 31 deadline for the federal government to have its mission-critical systems 100 percent compliant.

According to the GAO, the Department of Agriculture has dropped 886 mission-critical computer systems since August 1997, from 1,239 to 353. That enabled it to say it had gone from 10 percent compliant to 65 percent.

A similar tale at Housing and Urban Development: The agency started with 231 systems and ended with 62. Compliance jumped from 22 percent to 73 percent.

The Department of Defense's numbers went from 3,695 systems to 2,581, and compliance from 18 percent to 52 percent. It has classified the details, but the little information it did release shows that some formerly critical systems of control, early warning and communications were folded into others or split into smaller components.

Among systems reclassified by Housing and Urban Development are the Multifamily Data Warehouse, phased out in November without replacement, and the Funding and Contracting Tracking System, replaced last month by the Grants Evaluation Management System.

Requests to HUD seeking explanations of the system's functions were not answered.

The Department of Agriculture phased out systems that included one that controlled the cash receipts log and one that tracked discrepancies between bank deposits and the bookkeeping systems for the state and county offices of the Farm Service Agency.

Overall, of the 9,100 systems, 3,298 have been fixed, 3,323 redefined, and the rest are still being worked on, the GAO said.

Alloway, the task force director, concedes that of the mission-critical systems dropped in the last 18 months, about 500 probably were ``slop'' and needed to be dropped.

But he worries that many reclassified systems are ``being dropped down to the next tier of importance, primarily so they'll drop off the radar of what's important.''

The Office of Management and Budget, the watchdog agency of the Executive Branch, established guidelines for what constituted ``mission-critical.'' But each agency then decided which systems fit the description, and how much detail to make public.

``This is purely bureau business and not for public consumption,'' said Debbie Weierman, a spokeswoman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, when asked for a list of formerly mission-critical systems. ``It's regarding investigative techniques and isn't something the public would benefit from.''

Jack Gribben, spokesman for the President's Y2K council, acknowledged that the number of mission-critical systems has shrunk. ``I don't think it takes away from the fact that agencies have been making real progress over the past several months,'' he said. ``It's just a matter of what's a priority.''

``The definition, in my eyes, has always been a problem,'' said Matt Ryan, a staff aide for the House Y2K subcommittee Alloway worked for. It is chaired by Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., who in the past has voiced suspicions about redefined systems.

``We would expect some of that, but there is also a sense of 'gaming,''' said Ryan. ``If you want to drop out 10 systems that are not mission-critical, you can do that. That will raise suspicions, though.''

But Russell George, staff director and chief counsel for Horn's subcommitee, offered a cautious second opinion.

``The issue as to whether or not federal agencies were 'gaming the system' was raised some time ago and the subcommitee, working with the GAO, reviewed that issue and found no evidence that that was occuring,'' he said. ``That is not to say that the situation did not or does not exist, but no evidence to that effect has been found.''

Greg Parham, the Y2K project director for the Department of Agriculture, said nothing suspicious was going on at his agency. Instead, most of the 1,239 systems tallied in the original inventory were separate programs that were consolidated into one, he said. The Forest Service alone dropped from 423 to 17 systems.

Alloway is hopeful but wary. ``I think they will achieve 100 percent mission-critical compliance,'' he said. ``But they will reach it through a combination of creative redefining and hard work.''

-- Norm (, March 30, 1999


Dr. Alloway presented this information to a group of about 75 journalists at the FACS Y2K conference in NYC last month. They were staggered. "Why didn't someone tell us this information before?" one journalists blurted out. Duh ... this is public information that you would think the journalists would have tracked down on their own if they had been awake.

Another journalist asked a more intelligent question: "Which systems were re-classified from mission-critical to not-so-mission- critical?" Dr. Alloway pointed out that Dr. Horn's committee, on which he served as a consultant, wanted to know exactly the same information. But he said it was virtually impossible to get the agencies to divulge the information. This has actually provoked some interest on the part of a few journalists, including Chris Allbritton of AP; they're now trying to see if they can ferret out the information.


-- Ed Yourdon (, March 30, 1999.

It's difficult to take seriously anyone who posts what he believes is evidence of his viewpoint when, in fact, it argues for the opposite conclusion.

-- Vic (, March 30, 1999.

Happyface headlines again. But to condense the text: "We can't fix 'em, so we'll declare them non-critical. Then we can meet our pie-in- the-sky numerical statistical goals."

More lies, damn lies, and statistics (I think that's from Mark Twain if it matters).

Or to quote directly from the text: [my additions in brackets]

Since then, the government says, 3,298 systems have been fixed, and about 79 percent of its mission-critical systems are compliant.

But that figure would have been only 55.6 percent had 3,323 systems not been dropped or redefined [as compliant, that is], the GAO figures show.

Or how about:

But he [Robert Alloway, Director of the National Leadership Task Force on Y2K] worries that many reclassified systems are "being dropped down to the next tier of importance, primarily so they'll drop off the radar of what's important."

Hope they're paying well for your time, Normie. Keep on spinnin'... .

-- (li', March 30, 1999.

"being dropped down to the next tier of importance, primarily so they'll drop off the radar of what's important." Nothing wrong with this statement but what can you infer from this statement? Nothing without further data. It says that with additional time into the Y2K project, systems that were originally considered mission critical are now considered to be less than critical. They made a bad initial guess at the number of critical systems. So? Why must you make a big deal about this? I would expect that the initial estimate would change.

NEWSFLASH: This happens during any project; initial estimates are adjusted. And the government doesn't need to explain every adjustment to the people on this forum.

-- Maria (, March 30, 1999.

Yeah, right.

-- wasting (time@on.her), March 30, 1999.

So the .gov will be 100% compliant by the deadline. Whatever isn't fixed will be deemed non-critical. This is the easiest way of all to fix the Y2K problem. <:)=

-- Sysman (, March 30, 1999.

Hey wasting - that was brilliant!! Got any more of those snappy comebacks??!! Your momma must be so proud!!!

Maria - remember who we're dealing with here. The only good news for some of these folks is the bad news. And the really good news is just lies and spin. Pretty damned predictable actually.........


-- Deano (, March 30, 1999.


What good news? ONE bank has claimed compliance both internal and in the supplier base, Union Planters', TN. Show me more....

Unfortunately, the gov. and big business are pros in the fine art of spin aka lying as in James Carvell. It's a helluva show. People love to be entertained. They know that people like you will "buy" it because you always do. Rarely do people want or demand the truth. So why should they give it to you? You don't want to hear it. You want to hear the happy-faced, fuzzy logic of a "spokesperson" reassuring you. With the huge stakes, that's all you're going to get. You like that good news facade. Lap, lap, lap...

Do you expect organizations to proclaim, "We're not going to be compliant"? You can't be that naive......Maybe you can.......

Again show me the "good" news.....

-- PJC (, March 30, 1999.

PJC wrote, "Do you expect organizations to proclaim, "We're not going to be compliant"? You can't be that naive......Maybe you can......."

Yes, some 50% of small businesses have proclaimed this. Haven't you been reading the news? So your point?

Hey Deano, was down at the keys last week and loved it. While walking down Duval street I over heard someone shout to a UPS delivery man, "Hey are you Y2K compliant?" I was going to stop to discuss the issue but decided I was having too much fun at Margaritaville. I felt sorry for the delivery guy trying to say "But I just make the deliveries. You'll have to ask my boss". While the stupid Y2K nut was beating him up for being a DGI.

-- Maria (, March 30, 1999.

While many systems may not be deemed "mission critical", one has to assume there was some reason they were developed in the first place. And if they fell off the mission-critical list, then probably no one has time to fix the bugs in the rest of these systems at the present time. There is certainly the potential for considerable reduction in the productivity or efficiency of many government agencies for a long time after 1/1/2000. I could see the possibility that many agencies can do their jobs (such as issue the checks), but be unable to provide statistics, etc, which are not mission-critical to the agency itself but may be critical to consumers of such data. Or maybe a non-mission critical system is one that manages the air conditioning or the elevators, or issues new security badges, any of which could definitely lower productivity. Of course, your level of concern would be affected by whether you favor increased government productivity or not.

-- Dan Hunt (, March 30, 1999.


You actuall spent money at Margaritaville? All that place is is hype! There is no substance to it. One big magnet for the Buffett memes. It must have been a moment of panic, huh?

Besides, you seem like more of a Hog's Breath kinda gal.

It's better to have Hog's breath, then no breath at all.

If it's Y2K compliant.

-- DQS (bye-byeTexas@swbell.net_), March 30, 1999.

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