The Clinton administration is to ban individual government departments from buying new computers until they get their Year 2000 conversion projects under control, after US public sector watchdogs warned that the crisis is getting worse and costs are spiralling (see Newswire 15 September 1997).
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has already forbidden four federal agencies - Agriculture, Transport, Education and the Agency for International Development - to buy further equipment, while a further 12, including Defense, Justice and the Treasury, have been given a final warning to put their houses in order or face the same sanction.
The OMB acted in the light of a report, due to be published today, which reveals that the number of mission critical systems now identified as having a Year 2000 problem has risen from 7,649 in May to a new high of 8,562. Only 19 per cent of affected computers have been converted.
These figures do not even include the crucial systems in the Social Security department, which has yet to release details of the scale of its problem. An increasing number of US politicians are concerned about the potential civil unrest implications in underpriviliged inner cities if the benefits systems break down.
The report also admits that the cost of the public sector Year 2000 conversion is increasing with current estimates running at at least $3.8 billion, although privately, OMB officials now admit that the final figure will be closer to $5 billion. The Information Technology Association of America believes it could rise as high as $30 billion.
Government departments and agencies will have a chance to plead for more money to tackle the Year 2000 problem when they meet the OMB in November to agree spending plans for fiscal 1999. It is believed that most departments plan to beg for a massive increase in their IT budgets to mount a last minute assault on the crisis.
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