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1998-01-20 09:13:33


No Standards for U.S. Government Until March 1, 1998



The threat of importing noncompliant data has got the U.S. government's y2k repair directors worried.

This is at the heart of the y2k code-repair problem. This is why y2k is a systemic problem. It must be solved simultaneously to be solved at all.

For example, the Treasury Department has 1,295 interconnections. It must see to it that all of them use a standard that is consistent with its standard. The Treasury and the IRS have recently mandated the repair approach known as expansion: all four numbers in the century space. The more common, less expensive "windowing" method is now retraoactively forbidden to those interacting with Treasury and IRS. This comes years into the world's repair efforts.

What does this rule do to those organizations -- many international -- that need to interact with these two agencies, but which have already adopted windowing? "Sorry, Charlie." But that answer threatens to destroy the world's financial system. The U.S. Treasury is just too big a player to exclude all the others without destroying the system.

And then there is Japan....

The problem is systemic. It cannot be solved. Be prepared.

This is from FEDERAL COMPUTER WEEK (Jan. 19).

* * * * * * *

At this juncture, the government admits that many agencies will not meet that deadline. For the most part, the ability to finish the work successfully depends on the agencies' management of these difficult but integral problems. . . .

Some of the greatest challenges face large agencies that exchange data with state and local agencies, banks and other organizations involved in processing payments for Social Security pension and disability benefits, medical benefits, tax returns and federal salaries.

Beyond fixing their own systems, agencies such as the Social Security Administration and the Treasury Department must also worry about the reliability of the data generated by systems outside their immediate control.

"We feel that it's a high-risk area because you are dependent on things that are outside of your control, and obviously we trade with federal agencies, states and third parties," said Kathleen Adams, SSA's assistant deputy commissioner for systems and chairwoman of the Year 2000 Interagency Committee.

At present, each agency is doing an "inventory" of its exchanges, Adams said. Agencies are required to inform states of any exchanges by Feb. 1, and they need to come to an agreement by March 1 on the format and the date when the exchanges will be converted, Adams said. . . .

Treasury has identified 1,295 data exchanges with external trading partners, which include agencies at different levels of government, with banks and with other outside parties, according to Treasury CIO Jim Flyzik. The department has established a policy stating that all data exchanged externally must use the expanded date fields, which include all four digits for the year. . . .

Data exchanges, Flyzik said, are "new for all of us, and I think it's challenging us in ways that we have not dealt with before. External interfaces have become a major challenge for everyone."


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