THE WHITE HOUSE
Office of the Press Secretary
PRESIDENT CLINTON: MAKING SOCIAL SECURITY "Y2K OK" December 28, 1998
THE YEAR 2000 PROBLEM. The Year 2000 problem (Y2K) is a threat to information technology systems worldwide. It stems from the use in many computer systems of a two-digit dating method that assumes 1 and 9 are the first two digits of the year. Without programming changes, the systems will recognize 00 not as the Year 2000 but as the Year 1900, which could cause them either to shut down or to malfunction on January 1, 2000.
THE FEDERAL CHALLENGE. The Federal Government operates some of the world's largest, most complex computer systems and faces an enormous challenge in preparing for the century date change. Many of these systems play a key role in providing to millions of Americans key services such as veterans benefits, Medicare, student and small business loans, and Social Security.
President Clinton and Vice President Gore have challenged every Cabinet official to make fixing the Year 2000 problem in critical Federal systems and ensuring that key services continue without interruption their top management priority. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Treasury Department's Financial Management Service (FMS) have responded to the challenge.
MAKING SOCIAL SECURITY "Y2K OK." SSA provides benefits to more than 48 million Americans under the Social Security and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) programs. The agency has long been recognized as a leader within the Federal Government in preparing systems for the Year 2000. As of September 1998, all of SSA's benefits payments systems had been renovated, tested, implemented, and certified as Y2K compliant.
FMS maintains payment systems that each year make 860 million payments with a dollar value of more than $1 trillion on behalf of SSA, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service, and other agencies. FMS systems issue more than 600 million Social Security and Supplemental Security Income payments each year on behalf of SSA -- roughly 70 percent of all FMS payments.
SSA and FMS have worked together to ensure that the entire process for providing Social Security benefits -- from calculating benefits to making payments -- is ready for the century date change. In October 1998, FMS began to issue monthly Social Security payments on systems that had been fixed and tested while it awaited independent verification of its testing, test results, and documentation to ensure that these systems were, in fact, Year 2000 compliant.
INDEPENDENT VERIFICATION. Less than two weeks ago, the independent contractor informed FMS that monthly Social Security payment systems are indeed ready for the Year 2000 date change. This represents a critical step in Y2K work on these systems, and FMS will continue to test throughout 1999.
SOCIAL SECURITY -- Y2K OK. Now, critical Federal systems supporting the Social Security program at both SSA and FMS are ready for the 21st century and will be able to provide benefits without interruption to the Nation's seniors throughout 1999 and into the Year 2000.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: PREPARING CRITICAL FEDERAL SYSTEMS FOR THE YEAR 2000
The Federal Government operates some of the world's largest, most complex computer systems and faces an enormous challenge in preparing for the century date change. Many of these systems play a key role in providing millions of Americans key services such as veterans benefits, Medicare, student and small business loans, and Social Security.
MEETING THE YEAR 2000 CHALLENGE. President Clinton and Vice President Gore have challenged every Cabinet official to make fixing the Year 2000 (Y2K) computer problem in critical Federal systems and ensuring that key services continue without interruption their top management priority. The President and Vice President have also established an ambitious goal of ensuring that all critical Federal systems are Year 2000 compliant by March 31, 1999 -- months ahead of the end date for most private sector Y2K plans.
Agencies have accepted the challenge and have undertaken aggressive efforts to prepare their critical systems for the Year 2000. They are also sharing information on their progress with the public through quarterly reports on their Y2K efforts. Cabinet agencies that face the most significant Y2K challenges are required to submit monthly progress reports to the Office of Management and Budget. Each month, senior officials from these agencies also meet with the Chair of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion to review the steps they are taking to prepare systems for the new millennium.
MAKING SIGNIFICANT PROGRESS. While much work remains, agency efforts to prepare critical systems for the century date change are beginning to pay off. As of November 15, 1998:
61 percent of all critical Federal systems are now Y2K compliant, up from 27 percent a year ago.
90 percent of all critical Federal systems requiring repair work had been renovated, or fixed, and were being tested.
The Small Business Administration was the first agency to have completed Year 2000 work on all of its critical systems, ensuring that loans and other assistance to the Nation's 24 million small businesses will not be interrupted in January 2000.
At the Social Security Administration, 99 percent of critical systems were Y2K compliant. These systems support key programs like Social Security and Supplemental Security Income.
The Federal Aviation Administration had fixed more than 90 percent of its critical systems requiring repair work. Many of these systems are crucial to the Nation's air traffic control system.
The Department of Interior had posted a 50 percent increase in its number of Y2K compliant systems compared to the last quarter. The U.S. Geological Survey's National Seismic Network, which provides early warnings of earthquakes, was among the compliant systems.
The Department of Education's number of critical systems, many of which are critical to processing student loans, deemed Y2K compliant increased by more than one-third compared to the last quarter.
THE PRESIDENT'S COUNCIL ON YEAR 2000 CONVERSION: PROMOTING ACTION ON THE Y2K PROBLEM
In February 1998, President Clinton established the Council on Year 2000 Conversion to coordinate the Federal Government's Year 2000 efforts and to promote action on the problem among public and private sector organizations. The Council conducts its outreach mission through more than 25 agency working groups that focus on areas ranging from energy to telecommunications to financial institutions.
SMALL BUSINESSES. The Council is working with the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Commerce Department, and other Federal agencies to encourage the Nation's 24 million small businesses, many of whom have done little to address the Y2K problem, to prepare their critical systems for the Year 2000.
Partnering With Financial Institutions, Major Industry Associations. SBA, which chairs the Council's Small Business Working Group, has mounted an aggressive outreach program to promote action on the problem among small and medium-sized businesses. SBA has enlisted the support of private-sector organizations like the American Insurance Association and major financial institutions like the Bank of America who have agreed to distribute SBA Y2K information to their members and customers.
National Y2K Action Week. In October 1998, the Council joined SBA and Commerce in launching "National Y2K Action Week," to encourage small and medium-sized businesses to take action on the Y2K problem. More than 300 Y2K educational events for small and medium-sized business managers were held at Federal field offices across the country. Advertisements appeared in post offices and in 250 major newspapers.
STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT. Americans rely on State and local governments for important services ranging from water treatment to emergency services. The Council has been working with key groups like the National Governors' Association, the National Association of Counties, and the National League of Cities to promote action on the problem among State and local governments.
National Governors' Association State Year 2000 Coordinators Conference. Working with the National Governors Association, the Council in July held a two-day conference with Year 2000 Coordinators from 45 States to discuss key Y2K challenges and the importance of Federal/State/local coordination on the problem. The Council Chair now participates in monthly conference calls with the State Year 2000 coordinators to discuss cooperative efforts between the Federal Government and the States.
Data Exchanges. Federal agencies are actively working with State and local governments to ensure that the data exchanges used to carry out important Federal programs such as Unemployment Insurance and Medicaid will be ready for the Year 2000.
INTERNATIONAL COORDINATION. The Council is working to encourage other nations to take action on the Y2K problem and to facilitate regional and international coordination of country Y2K efforts.
UN National Year 2000 Coordinators Meeting. The Council worked closely with the United Nations to organize this month the first-ever meeting of national Year 2000 coordinators from over 120 nations. Delegates discussed Y2K cross-border Y2K challenges in key infrastructure areas such as telecommunications and transportation and agreed to work together regionally to share information on their Y2K remediation and contingency planning efforts. The U.S. and the other nations that helped to organize the meeting also agreed to examine how these regional groups can coordinate Y2K activities on an international basis.