U.S. Postal Service:

Subcommittee Questions Concerning Year 2000 Challenges Facing the Service

AIMD-99-150R: Published: Apr 23, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the challenges facing the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) in addressing the year 2000 problem.

GAO noted that: (1) USPS has been running behind the Office of Management and Budget's schedule for system renovation and still must address major issues to correct and test system and mail processing equipment, ensure the readiness of thousands of local facilities, and determine whether and when its key suppliers and interface partners will be year 2000 compliant; (2) USPS has determined that its systems are susceptible to September 9, 1999, as well as 25 other special dates, and it is testing its critical systems to ensure that they can correctly handle these dates; (3) USPS is pursuing a windowing approach to date conversion rather than expanding date fields from two to four characters; (4) under this approach, software is written to associate a fixed or sliding period of years with either the 20th or 21st centuries; (5) USPS year 2000 officials have advised GAO that windowing fixes will remain viable beyond the year 2048 for all but two systems, which will remain viable until the year 2019; (6) replacement schedules have already been developed for permanent fixes for these two systems; (7) USPS has realized significant benefits from their year 2000 efforts; (8) these include the elimination of unnecessary software code; replacement of antiquated, locally developed software applications; and modernization of information technology equipment, including mainframe computer systems, mid-range computer systems, and desktop workstations; (9) USPS' Inspector General is planning a year 2000 conversion contract examination as part of its continuing audits of year 2000 issues within USPS; (10) USPS is following GAO's Business Continuity and Contingency Planning guide, which provides a conceptual framework for managing the risk of potential year 2000-induced disruptions to operations and incorporates best practices in contingency planning and disaster recovery; (11) contingency plans are not scheduled to be completed and tested until June 30, 1999, and continuity plans are not scheduled to be completed and tested until August 1999 and tested again in November 1999; (12) this schedule will leave USPS with little room for slippage or for making adjustments to ensure that contingency and continuity plans are practical and cost effective; (13) USPS' ability to control its suppliers is limited and it must rely on statements of assurance of year 2000 compliance by its suppliers; and (14) any critical suppliers assessed as non-compliant will be part of USPS' contingency planning activities.

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