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
be crucial to the nation's Y2K readiness."
"While the Postal Service has made progress in pursuing solutions to
Y2K problems, it still faces significant challenges in the ten months
"[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
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
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
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
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
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
"The Postal Service exchanges a significant amount of data
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
exchange partners' systems may not be Y2K ready. As of January 1999,
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
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