Federal Government Fails To Meet Latest Y2K Deadline, Declares Victory

greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

here's a brief analysis with a list of several links on today's federal government compliance report:


Federal Government Fails To Meet Latest Y2K Deadline, Declares Victory

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (y2k@cbn.org), March 31, 1999


Drew, What's the lowdown on embedded systems and devices in the federal government? They are not part of the "mission critical" set . . . or are they?

-- Puddintame (achillesg@hotmail.com), March 31, 1999.

The article should have mentioned that the total number of federal systems is around 67,000. Note that this does not include individual computers: PC's, workstations, disk servers, comms hubs, etc.. Geez...there are at least 10,000 of those at the one small agency where I work.

-- a (a@a.a), March 31, 1999.

off the top of my head... (i'm at home now)... i *think* the pentagon counts embeddeds in its mission-critical systems- i'm almost sure they do. most federal departments- like, say, state or justice- wouldn't have a great deal to worry about in terms of embeddeds. that said, though, i do believe the pentagon (which is reponsible for 67% of the decline in federal m-critical numbers) does have hardware with potential y2k systems.

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (y2k@cbn.org), March 31, 1999.


i talked to one of the leading experts on federal systems (dr bob alloway), and asked him what the total number of federal systems was, and he said there was no official number. off the top of my head, i recall he thought the number was around 60,000. koskinen & willemssen, when they spoke at dcy2k, estimated around 59,000. and i do know that that number *does* include at least some pc systems. i can't say if it includes them all, though.

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (y2k@cbn.org), March 31, 1999.


I wonder what, if anything, the Federal government is doing about the so-call "non-mission critical" systems. If they are allowed to continue to operate and interface with the "mission critical" systems, they will almost certainly corrupt some of the latter. It is the old problem of the interconnectedness of everything.

-- Incredulous (ytt000@aol.com), April 01, 1999.

DoD has inventoried roughly 900,000 individual weapons systems containing embedded systems; the vast majority of these are not counted as "mission critical," obviously.

Embedded systems in building facilities (HVAC, security, lighting, etc.) might pose problems for other federal agencies as well. The National Assoc. of Building Managers (or some such outfit) has estimated that roughly 5% of buildings nationwide will have such problems; I see no reason why federal buildings would be exempt. The real kick in the posterior may come from PBX (private branch exchange) systems. Work on many federal and corporate switchboards still seems to be lagging; vendors were slow to provide compliant components. Rossotti of the IRS, in particular, was howling about this last summer. I presume they are doing better now.

The total number of federal computer systems is variously given as anywhere between 59,000 and 73,000, depending on whose figures you accept (GAO, OMB, "Federal Computer Week," GMIT, etc.). The most common range I see is 67,000 to 73,000. In August 1997, 9,100 of these systems were deemed "mission critical"; today the number is 6,123. At that rate of "declassification," 'tis a pity we didn't have three more years: then we would have discovered we had NO "mission critical" federal computer systems and hence nothing that really needed fixing!

Incidentally, many data exchanges (external interfaces) have yet to be fixed, even in the ever-dwindling number of "mission-critical" systems; that's why there have been few or no end-to-end systems tests conducted yet by the feds. It does little good to get your internal systems compliant if you can't communicate with the outside world; Treasury, for instance, has over 6,800 outside interfaces to deal with. If we go down, this is probably where the disaster will come from. This is also why Koskinen's statement today that many essential govt. computer systems are "100% ready for business" is a blatant lie. An EDS analyst today questioned whether the feds will make it; another analyst compared the task ahead to putting Humpty Dumpty back together again.

The private sector faces the same problem, of course, compounded by the fact that 80% of the Y2K repairs here and abroad involve a windowing strategy, without any standard for how to window the dates. (The feds, at least, are all using four-digit date expansion.) Without complex bridging software, many computers fixed by using a two-digit windowing strategy simply won't be able to "talk to each other" reliably about certain dates, which may include dates in birth records, medical records, driving records, criminal records, financial records, etc. The real danger is the insidious, undetected corruption of databases. Also, according to Capers Jones, companies that fix their databases by a windowing strategy (and that includes the vast majority of them) will suffer roughly a 20% loss of efficiency in accessing/mining those databases. See his book "The Year 2000 Software Problem."

Remember the bank interoperability (EDI) test originally scheduled for last January? To the best of my knowledge, it hasn't been conducted yet. Now you know why.

I think we're in trouble.

-- Don Florence (dflorence@zianet.com), April 01, 1999.

please forgive moi; this is the second time i have written this reply, so it is a bit rushed. the first time i wrote it, i accidentally closed the browser window i was using to write it. duh.

so here we go again:


i asked both koskinen & willemsen about the federal non-mission-C systems at the wash dc y2k group meeting last september; both emphasized that it was the mission Cs that counted. koskinen added that he had asked the same question when he came into office, and he found that a lot of non MCs were being worked on (even at the same rate, as i recall). of course, that raises the question of what kind of management the feds are employing, since even after hacking the overall MC numbers to shreds, they *still* didn't get them all done.


you make good points. i wasn't even thinking about HVACs, etc. last night- i was in a state of near-exhaustion by that point. however, buildings do vary widely in their state of y2k problems, and i would imagine that the feds don't have problems too significant to overcome in these areas (except for possibly the pentagon).

re the total number of systems- the closest thing to a definite number i've been able to find is 59,000, although i've heard all the other numbers too.

however, the feds are *not* all using four-digit dates and avoiding windowing. from the ap story in usa today on 3/15/99:

**The federal government, which expects to spend $6.4 billion and has ordered its most important computers fixed by the end of March, doesn't discourage agencies from using windowing. But it warns of consequences.

**"It's like the Fram oil filter guy: You can pay me now or you can pay me later," said Keith Rhodes, a technical director at the General Accounting Office, which monitors repair efforts at federal agencies. "It's not solving your problem. It's delaying the inevitable."

**Some government agencies, such as the Social Security Administration, have generally shunned the method. The Internal Revenue Service allows it only rarely. The State Department is using it on nearly half its most important computers, but also plans to replace those systems within five years.

**Other agencies, such as the Federal Aviation Administration, freely acknowledge using the technique. The agency's top Y2K expert, Ray Long, says he doesn't consider it a problem or even just a short-term solution.

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (y2k@cbn.org), April 01, 1999.

Great report, Drew. Must be hard to write a somewhat concise article with so much material to draw from. I think one of the problems is that inconsistencies in government, such as the lowering of the number of mission-critical systems, no longer even raise an eyebrow among the American public.

We missed ya, Drew.


-- jhollander (hollander@ij.net), April 01, 1999.


hey, been thinking about you- sorry i haven't gotten back to you in e- mail. i am crushed beyond human comprehension. sigh :(

that report was based on a presentation i did on the show a few weeks ago, in anticipation of the inevitable spin that would come out of dc. i had expected that more of the networks would pick up on this information, but they didn't- they just went with the spoon-fed pr releases. associated press, to its credit, did do this story, though, a few days ago, as i referenced in my summary... but no one else seems to have followed through...

-- Drew Parkhill/CBN News (y2k@cbn.org), April 01, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ