Congress and Y2K : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Interesting article, including the comments by Senator Bennett:

-- Linkmeister (, September 14, 1999


[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

Congress Should Be Ready For Y2K Computer Glitch

Officials Cautiously Optimistic About Preparedness

By Stacey Zolt

Only 117 days left until Day One.

In the spirit of Armageddon, the legislative branch has aptly nicknamed Jan. 1, 2000, "Day One" -- the day on which their years of crisis management and technological overhaul will finally be put to the test.

"Obviously, on New Year's Eve there's going to be some people who aren't drinking champagne," said Chick Ciccolella, chief of operations for the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

While sources across the legislative branch say they're ready for Y2K's wrath, they plan to continue their awareness and education campaigns to strike a balance between panic and complacency in the Hill community.

The House, Senate, Architect of the Capitol and Capitol Police are on solid ground in their own contingency efforts. Still, they worry about the world around them and the effect non-compliance elsewhere could have on the Hill.

Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, is confident that the Senate is on top of the matter. However, he said there's no guarantee of a smooth transition.

The Senator acknowledged that no matter how successfully the legislative branch conquers the Y2K glitch, the reality remains that city services may not be up to snuff.

"Sure, there's always the possibility that your staff can't get to work," he said.

The District is "behind the curve," Bennett said. "Some would say they're badly behind the curve."

Throughout the legislative branch, Y2K managers are aware of this possible crisis. "We're confident that we're gong to have water and electricity, but that does not mean we're not going to have problems," Ciccolella said.

It's a fundamental focus for the Architect of the Capitol, who handles all public works areas as well as the electrical and physical aspects of the complex. The office's operations are the ones most in jeopardy if the District's Y2K efforts fall short.

Architect of the Capitol spokesman Herb Franklin said the Architect's office is communicating with D.C. officials and is generally confident that electricity will be fine. Water, however, is another story. "At the moment we don't anticipate problems with PEPCO," Franklin said, adding, "The District's water situation is being monitored closely."

The Architect's office had an unintended "dress rehearsal" for the possible water crisis a couple months ago when one of the District's water mains broke down and the James Madison Building was completely without water. Its only option was to evacuate the building until water flow could be restored.

"The fact of the matter is that if there's not water you can't have occupancy of the building in case of fire," Franklin said.

Emergency incidents such as water access will be handled by a critical incident command center, including decision makers from every legislative agency, which will be set up at Capitol Police headquarters from Dec. 26, 1999, to Jan. 7, 2000.

"Our hope is that it will be one of the most boring New Years Eves anyone has ever spent," Franklin joked.

Contingency plans, or backup operation plans in case a Y2K compliant system fails, are a vital component of Day One.

Contingency planning began in October 1998 to address the possibility that internal and external systems may not run without a hitch. The House-wide contingency plan will be completed next month.

Plans are fully formed for 21 of the Senate's 22 mission critical systems. They range from actually fixing the problem to finding an alternative way to conduct the program's function. For example, if the Senate vote tally system were to break down, then the contingency plan is to enter the information manually.

The prevailing hope is that the contingency plans won't be necessary after years working to make critical systems compliant and months of testing to be sure they'll function when Day One arrives.

The House Administration Committee's "Y2000 Update" Web site reports that the House's work is 98 percent complete.

All but two major House systems will be operating in Y2K compliant versions by the end of September, according to the Web site. The remaining systems -- the Member clerk hire program and the Office Supply Store's point-of-sale system -- will be finished soon thereafter.

The House has also made significant progress on the non-mission critical systems. Of the 457 systems, 304 are fully Y2K compliant. There were 151 systems retired, so only two still need to be replaced and one needs to be repaired.

"They were systems that needed to be retired that were not compatible with the modern systems that needed to be put into place," said House Administration spokesman Jason Poblete, "or [they] had just become obsolete."

The Senate began its Y2K work in 1996 with a database assessment and awareness work. The Sergeant-at-Arms has since set up an intense operation at Postal Square that is specifically assigned to solving the Y2K issue.

"We know the status [of the systems]. We know where they are, and the Senate is going to be fine on Y2K," Ciccolella said.

Of the Senate's 22 mission critical systems, 10 are fully certified as complete and compliant, four more are complete and awaiting final compliance certification and eight are finishing up parallel testing and independent verification and validation.

Ciccolella predicts total completion of testing for the middle of this month. After that, his team will spot-check the various systems to ensure readiness.

"The biggest problem in year 2000 right now is that it's not good enough to say that your system is tested and implemented. ... Testing should be continuous," he said.

As for the non-mission critical systems, Y2K Senior Program Manager Vicki Sinnett says they'll be up, running and tested by this winter.

"We don't want to drag this out," she said.

Regardless of how prepared they may be, Sinnett expects a barrage of questions from staffers come Day One. To ease the burden on the Sergeant-at-Arms, Affiliated Computer Services (the Senate's information-technology support vendor) will be on hand to provide call-in support, technical support and mechanical support.

And to prevent confusion when the calendar turns, House and Senate Y2K staffs have or will develop Day One planning guides for Member and committee offices.

The House Administration Committee is planning a series of advisories, publications and notifications to further educate House employees on the issue. Plans for managing House-specific matters during the first week of the new year are still being finalized.

"House Administration is confident that all necessary steps have been taken and we will continue to take them," Poblete said.

The Senate Sergeant-at-Arms will hold "Y2K Awareness Day" either this month or next to remind staff which programs and equipment are compliant and which are not.

"Information is everything in making this a nonevent," Ciccolella said.


-- Linkmeister (, September 14, 1999.

"Obviously, on New Year's Eve there's going to be some people who aren't drinking champagne," said Chick Ciccolella, chief of operations for the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms.

Obviously...can't afford to be hammered whilst escaping to the hills and bunkers in the mountains of W.Va. LOL!

-- Billy-Boy (, September 14, 1999.

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