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Testimony on The Year 2000 Challenge by Olivia Golden
Assistant Secretary for Children and Families
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Before the House Committee on Ways and Means
February 24, 1999

Good morning Mr. Chairman and members of the Committee. I am Olivia Golden, Assistant Secretary for Children and Families within the Department of Health and Human Services. I appreciate the opportunity to appear before you today to report on the progress we have made in ensuring that our automated systems are Year 2000 compliant, and to share our outreach efforts to the human services sector. Your attention to this issue is certain to help us in highlighting the importance with which it must be viewed by State, county and local human service providers.

I am extremely pleased to report that ACF has completed efforts to ensure Year 2000 compliance of all its automated systems applications. We initially identified 55 systems as providing mission-critical support to ACF core business processes which require Year 2000 remediation — grant-making, child support enforcement, and information collection and reporting (ten were subsequently retired).

I would like to describe our efforts to ensure compliance in each of these critical systems, including our use of independent verification and validation processes and contingency planning for the unexpected, and our efforts to work with our State and local partners to address the special problems they face.


Ensuring that ACF mission-critical systems are Year 2000 compliant has been a priority for us for several years. I am convinced that this level of attention was essential to our success in completing Year 2000 compliance activities for all our mission-critical systems.

Beginning in 1993, ACF engaged in a business process reengineering (BPR) effort, the aim of which was to consolidate the many ACF grant-making, tracking, and reporting systems into one integrated system. This system, called the Grants Application, Tracking, and Evaluation System or GATES, allows ACF to carry out all the administrative functions related to grant-making via one system. GATES ensures that grants are processed seamlessly, and allows ACF to collect and analyze program performance information. It was designed from its inception to be Year 2000 compliant and is a dynamic system that will continue to evolve to meet ACF’s grants-related needs.

This transformation of grant-making systems was a huge accomplishment. Now, all grants, whether entitlement grants like Child Support Enforcement or discretionary grants such as Head Start, are processed using one central system.

ACF’s second major category of mission-critical systems is Child Support Enforcement systems. ACF efforts to assist all States and territories in their attempts to establish and enforce child support are supported by four systems:

  • The Federal Parent Locator Service (FPLS) which is a computerized national location network that consists of a National Directory of New Hires (NDNH), a centralized repository of W-4, quarterly wage and unemployment insurance claims data, and a Federal Case Registry (FCR) of child support orders. These two databases are automatically matched on a daily basis, providing States with the most timely, accurate information available to locate non-custodial parents for the purpose of establishing or enforcing child support orders;
  • The Tax Refund Offset System (TROS) which allows States to intercept Federal tax refunds and other Federal payments due to non-custodial parents who are delinquent in paying child support;
  • The Enumeration Verification System (EVS) which allows States to verify the social security numbers of non-custodial parents; and
  • The Child Support Enforcement Network (CSENet) which provides a means for States and territories to exchange information needed to work interstate child support cases.

The first three of these systems are housed on a Social Security Administration mainframe computer. These systems were repaired to meet Year 2000 requirements by providing individual lines of code to ensure that all dates use four-digit years in calculations, manipulations, display, input, and reports.

CSENet is a federally maintained network of personal computers (PCs) at 54 State and territorial sites, connected via modems to a federal host personal computer. CSENet was developed as a Year 2000 compliant application. Currently, the PCs upon which this application is run are being upgraded to ensure Year 2000 compliance of all aspects of the network. This upgrade will be completed by March 1999 for most States and, pending completion in the others, a contingency of patches will be made available for the hardware and its operating systems until all of the upgraded hardware is in place.

The third and final internal system category in ACF involves information collection and reporting. ACF collects information on at-risk segments of the population served by our programs, such as children in the adoption and foster care system and runaway and homeless youth.

ACF uses two systems to collect and analyze this information: the Adoption and Foster Care Analysis and Reporting System (AFCARS) and the Runaway and Homeless Youth Management Information System (RHYMIS). AFCARS is housed on a National Institutes of Health mainframe, while RHYMIS is a system consisting of stand-alone PCs that collect and analyze information from approximately 400 grantees. These PCs save electronic reports to diskettes that grantees mail to the Family and Youth Services Bureau for uploading into a composite federal RHYMIS system. Both AFCARS and RHYMIS were designed to be Year 2000 compliant.

A number of these systems exchange information with State systems, such as AFCARS, FPLS, TROS, and EVS. In these cases, we have established bridges to ensure that all data incorporated in our systems from the States’ systems are Year 2000 compliant. A bridge screens the incoming data to ensure that they use 4-digit year dates; if they do not, the bridge prefixes the proper century digits to the year date. In turn, as an interim measure, if a State system cannot accept Year 2000 compliant data, a conversion program will format the data field in a way that is usable by the State prior to transmitting the data to the State system.

I’d like to now turn to our Independent Verification and Validation activities and our contingency planning to deal with unexpected systems problems.


Independent Verification and Validation (IV&V) is essential for ensuring that the hardware and software associated with a system meet Year 2000 requirements. Using three IV&V contractors, ACF's mission-critical systems were tested on several different levels to ensure that they comply with the Year 2000 requirements for the use of the four-digit year date format and that they would function properly after remediation was completed. IV&V have been completed on all but one of ACF’s mission critical-systems; five of those have received final compliance certifications from the contractors: AFCARS, RHYMIS, FPLS, EVS, and TROS.

Although the CSENet IV&V showed that the CSENet application itself is compliant, it also revealed that the hardware and operating system software upon which the application runs need to be upgraded. We are in the process of addressing the needed upgrades.

The IV&V effort for the GATES systems has been an extremely complex undertaking. However, we expect to receive the final certification of compliance by the end of March. The contractor has spent a large amount of time becoming familiar with the system’s construction and interfaces with external systems and is currently running a series of date rollover tests as a final step to certification of compliance.

As a result of these rigorous efforts, we are confident that our systems will be fully Year 2000 compliant by the end of March, with the sole exception of CSENet. That system will be compliant when its underlying hardware and operating systems are replaced in September 1999. However, as an extra measure of protection from any unanticipated problems, ACF has developed Business Continuity and Contingency Plans (BCCPs) for all our mission-critical systems. These plans will ensure that ACF will be able to carry out its core business functions until unforeseen problems are resolved. The BCCPs contain specific information on Year 2000 related problems that might occur to each system, and spell out the triggers that would cause a specific remediation action to be invoked.

In addition to ensuring the integrity of our federal systems, we have focused attention on the affects of Year 2000 problems on providers of human services under programs funded by ACF. I would like to briefly describe our efforts.


ACF supports a wide range of programs that are administered at the State, county and local levels. While we do not play a direct role in the development and operation of the systems needed to support these programs, we are working on a number of fronts to ensure that, to the maximum extent possible, human services providers are taking appropriate steps to address the Year 2000 problem.

This is very complicated because there are substantial variations in the degree of automation in each program and at each level, ranging from sophisticated. Statewide systems for multiple programs, to simple desktop operation for a non-profit service provider. The sheer number and complexity of these systems makes assessment of the potential Year 2000 problems extremely difficult. The number of entities involved in the provision of human services, from the federal level down to the providers of services in communities, further complicates the picture. An example may help to illustrate this point:

In one large State, there are numerous systems that are used to administer the human services programs. Four separate systems determine eligibility for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, food stamp and Medicaid programs. Many Child Support Enforcement systems are operated at the county level. There is a Statewide system for the child welfare program under title IV-E of the Social Security Act, but services may be tracked by a large number of private service providers at the community level. There is no centralized child care system - multiple information systems exist at the county and local provider level. Head Start grantees operate individual information systems with varying degrees of sophistication. This also is true for grantees in many other programs as well.

For the families that rely on our systems, this staggering level of complexity means that a wide variety of partners in the Federal, State, and local levels must undertake intensive, focused efforts to be sure that families and individuals do not lose crucial services due to Year 2000 computer problems. While ACF has achieved its own Year 2000 compliance, that alone is only one part of the battle to ensure that service is not disrupted. In addition, we must hold States and local entities accountable for seeing that their systems are compliant and that they have viable contingency plans in place, with our support and assistance.

ACF has taken action to make our partners and grantees aware of the critical nature of the problem, and to assist them as they plan and execute their own Year 2000 readiness strategies. As laid out in more detail below, we have provided and will continue to provide information, technical assistance, and help with assessments of grantees’ systems. In addition, we plan to accelerate our efforts to do more on-site assessment and participate in States’ contingency planning efforts.

In order to get a clearer sense of the status of all these systems, we have requested that States provide us with estimates of Year 2000 readiness for these major programs, the status of their contingency plans, and updates of this information on a regular basis. Although no State has indicated that it will not be Year 2000 ready, a number have indicated that they will not be ready until late in the year. With just over half the States responding so far, several indicate that they are going to finish their fixes later in the year - in the third or fourth quarter. Coming this close to the deadline is a real cause for concern, because systems experts believe that large, complex organizations should be in a testing phase by now. To compound the fact that some States are cutting it so close, approximately a quarter report that they have no contingency plans.

This information, like other reports, indicates that we have reason to be concerned about State and local readiness regarding Year 2000. The recent General Accounting Office (GAO) report on the Year 2000 readiness of State public assistance systems, and the National Association of Counties (NACO) report on the readiness of counties, have raised concerns about the ability of State, territorial, and local governments to deal with this problem. The GAO survey found most States were not as far along with their corrective action plans as they should have been. Similarly, NACO’s report, based on a sample of 500 counties, found that up to half of all counties do not have Year 2000 corrective action plans, or budgets to support such plans.

ACF’s outreach strategy is designed to inform and support our State and local partners as they move ahead on their critical task of ensuring that their human services systems are not disrupted by Year 2000 problems. Our shared goal is to ensure the continued provision of human services under our programs in the coming millennium. To achieve this goal, ACF’s role is to:

  • Ensure the readiness of ACF systems, which is complete as described above;
  • Heighten awareness of the issue and the impact of taking corrective action to ensure continued service delivery;
  • Assist states in gaining access to available resources to support their Year 2000 efforts; and
  • Work with our partners to assess the overall readiness of their systems and encourage and support the development of contingency plans.

Heighten awareness

For the past few years, ACF has been involved in actively reaching out to human service providers on the Year 2000 issue. ACF has led the Human Services Outreach Sector, which includes the Administration on Aging, the Health Care Financing Administration (Medicaid), the Health Resources and Services Administration and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.

In addition, I have personally made this issue a top priority in my meetings with State and local officials and have asked managers and staff throughout ACF to do the same. We are seeking not only to elevate the level of attention on the issue at the State and local level, but also to glean information about the most useful ways that we can help our partners continue to deliver services in case of a system breakdown. ACF has taken additional steps to make program providers aware of the problem and of the need to take action, including:

  • Establishment of a comprehensive Year 2000 web page (WWW.ACF.DHHSGOV), which includes information for both technical and non-technical users, to reach a wide variety of audiences. The website contains guidance on planning and undertaking Year 2000 efforts, samples of documents that will help human service providers catalog their Year 2000 efforts, and software that will help providers assess the readiness of their own systems.
  • Development and distribution of a Year 2000 Guide for Human Service Providers, which was distributed last year to over 7,000 human service providers and representative organizations. This document is currently being revised to be distributed to an additional 25,000 human service providers under ACF and other Departmental agencies.
  • Establishment of a Year 2000 help-desk which human services providers can access through an internet e-mail address and 1-800 telephone number.
  • Insertion of a standard Year 2000 information sheet in all ACF grant awards.

Access to resources

ACF has assisted States and grantees in gaining access to a range of available resources, which will be useful in their efforts to become Year 2000 compliant,

  • ACF issuance of an Action Transmittal to States on July 1, 1998, which provided streamlined procedures for acquiring expedited approval of Federal matching funds in the cost of activities undertaken to make State systems Year 2000 compliant.
  • Development of a TANF data collection system which is Year 2000 compliant and distribution to States of Year 2000 compliant PC-based software that they could use to collect and maintain information. About 30 percent of States use this software; the remaining 70 percent extract TANF information from their existing mainframe systems and transmit it to ACF in a Year 2000 compliant format.
  • Use of existing contractor resources, available in each often HHS regional offices to assist Head Start grantees in assessing their Year 2000 readiness and solving any identified problems. In addition, grantees have been advised that program administration grant funds may be used to make their systems Year 2000 compliant.

Assess overall readiness including contingency plan development

Considerable gaps in information about the status of State systems remain. As I indicated, ACF, along with the Assistant Secretary for Management and Budget at HHS, have surveyed States on their progress in Year 2000 and on-site reviews will be conducted to further assess State systems and the need for States to put contingency plans in place. We will continue to use information from our surveys and these reviews to assess how we can best work with States as they make progress in dealing with this problem.

We also are taking advantage of opportunities provided by our ongoing systems work, where have a more active role, to focus on Year 2000 efforts. In child support, we are closely monitoring State Year 2000 activities as part of all systems reviews and automation funding requests. The latest information we have indicates that fully one-third of these systems are Year 2000 compliant. However, we are requiring that at-risk States produce an acceptable contingency plan to ensure the continued collection and disbursement of child support payments in the event that the State does not complete Year 2000 remediation efforts in time.

In addition, we have completed an in-house assessment for non-State human service providers, such as Head Start and Runaway and Homeless Youth. Based on this assessment, we intend to focus further outreach efforts and provide technical assistance to those providers most in need.

Finally, should systems disruptions occur, we have emphasized the need for contingency plans. At the same time as we are urging all our partners to develop such plans, and offering to support in those efforts, we are investigating whether there is flexibility under our programs that might offer further assistance.


In summary, we are confident that all internal systems in the Administration for Children and Families are Year 2000 compliant. The remediation of these systems and independent verification and validation of their functions have helped us to improve the automated support of our core business processes. In addition, we are continuing our efforts to assist grantees and other human service providers by conducting extensive Year 2000 outreach. I can assure you that we are taking all possible measures to secure services into and beyond the new millennium.

Thank you. I would be pleased to respond to any questions.

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