United States Postal Service and Y2K
(Source: Karla W. Corcoran, Inspector General, USPS, 2/23/99)

The following edited excerpts are from a surprisingly frank report by Karla W. Corcoran, Inspector General of the U.S. POSTAL SERVICE (USPS) to a joint hearing of the SUBCOMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT, INFORMATION, AND TECHNOLOGY and the TECHNOLOGY COMMITTEE ON SCIENCE:

"In 1998, the Postal Service used automation and information systems to deliver 198 billion pieces of mail, maintain its nationwide network of over 38,000 post offices and facilities, and pay its more than 775,000 career employees. This dependency on automated systems makes the Postal Service highly susceptible to the Y2K problem. As a key element in our nation's communication and commerce infrastructure, its preparedness may be crucial to the nation's Y2K readiness."

"While the Postal Service has made progress in pursuing solutions to its Y2K problems, it still faces significant challenges in the ten months that remain:

"[In] our most recent Y2K report, we found that briefings to senior management and Y2K reports designed for internal and external use were not always complete, consistent, or clear. We also found that the briefings to senior management did not include a standard report on the overall status of Y2K progress and were not provided at regularly scheduled intervals. As a result, senior managers did not always have the information they needed to monitor Y2K progress. Because senior managers did not have this information, they lost time-critical opportunities to make important resource and budget decisions."

"As recently as last November, the Postal Service had no comprehensive report that effectively conveyed to senior management the status of the Postal Service's Y2K Initiative."

"The Postal Service relies extensively on external suppliers that are critical to moving the mail, such as airlines, railroads, and the trucking industry. Obviously, these suppliers are also susceptible to the Y2K problem. Therefore, it is important that the Postal Service become aware of the Y2K status of suppliers to plan and minimize potential disruption in services. Postal officials started to address the supplier issue in June 1998 and, to date, have identified almost 8,000 critical suppliers. As of January 1999, the Postal Service knew the Y2K status of 349 of these 8,000 suppliers."

"For headquarters' suppliers, in January 1999, the Postal Service had identified 661 critical suppliers and inquired as to their Y2K readiness. Of these, 312 did not respond to inquiries. Of the 349 that replied, the Postal Service determined that 254 are at high risk of not being Y2K ready. The Postal Service has not developed contingency plans to address how it will move the mail if these external suppliers are not ready for the Year 2000."

"The Postal Service operates more than 38,000 facilities nationwide. Many of these facilities are dependent on technology susceptible to Y2K problems, such as fire suppression equipment, heating and cooling systems, and building access controls. The Postal Service considers 700 of these facilities "high risk" because of the high volume of mail. These facilities rely on thousands of pieces of critical Y2K-susceptible equipment. As of January 1999, the Postal Service did not know the Y2K status of critical equipment in its facilities nationwide."

"As of January 1999, the Postal Service had identified 152 critical information systems crucial to the core business activities of the Postal Service. As of January 1999, Postal managers reported that 127 of the 152 systems were reviewed, corrected, and tested at the system level. These systems still need to be certified and independently verified as Y2K compliant. Some systems will also need to undergo readiness testing. The Postal Service's initial target date for reviewing and correcting systems was September 1998. The current completion date is projected for June 1999, nine months after the original projection, which affects other information systems target dates."

"The Postal Service exchanges a significant amount of data internally and with external organizations, such as financial institutions, customers, transportation suppliers, meter manufacturers, and the U.S. Treasury. These data exchanges need to be assessed and certified as compliant if the Postal Service's Y2K effort is to succeed. Even if the Postal Service's critical systems are Y2K compliant, it is possible that exchange partners' systems may not be Y2K ready. As of January 1999, the Postal Service has assessed about 4,300 out of approximately 5,700 data exchanges. About 2,000 of the 4,300 data exchanges assessed have been identified as critical. As of now, 123 of the 2,000 have been reported as Y2K ready."

"The Postal Service depends on mainframe systems, midrange computers, network servers, personal computers, and telecommunications equipment. The Postal Service has been working to make this infrastructure Y2K compliant since 1996. As of January 1999, officials estimated that the Postal Service had more than 134,000 actual pieces of hardware, including about 120,000 personal computers and about 14,000 servers. To manage the inventory, the Postal Service has categorized the hardware and software into 2,000 unique types. As of January 1999, the Postal Service reported that solutions had been developed for 1,600 of the 2,000 types of hardware and software. Deploying the solutions will be a challenge because the Postal Service does not know which specific personal computers and servers are not Y2K compliant."

"The Postal Service is faced with a formidable challenge in completing all of these tasks. We believe the Postal Service should immediately reevaluate the initial assessment and shift priority to issues that are absolutely necessary to ensure that core business processes work in the Year 2000 -- those that move the mail, pay employees and vendors, protect revenue, and protect the safety of employees and customers. It is [also] critical that the Postal Service develop and test business continuity and contingency plans. Such plans will reduce the consequences of Y2K problems that could impair the Postal Service's core business processes."

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