is Y2K OK
Tuesday, December 21, 1999
Kenneth S. Apfel, Commissioner
of Social Security
Good afternoon, everyone. Thank
you for being here today.
As you know, almost everyone
in the United States is touched by Social Security. Whether it's
the 50 million people that depend on Social Security or Supplemental
Security income payments each month, or the 145 million workers
who pay into the system, people rely on the Social Security Administration
to get the right benefit payment to the right person at the right
time. So it is very important that the public know that today, we
have completed delivery of the January 2000 check and direct deposit
payment files to the Treasury Department. The people that depend
on us can rest assured that their payments will arrive on time.
In other words, our customers can rely on us in January just as
they have for over 60 years.
Our goal all along has been
to have a Y2K compliant system ready and tested a year beforehand,
so that if other, unanticipated problems arose, they could be resolved
quickly and without impacting our customers. And we've done it
so have our partners, the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve
and the United States Postal Service.
Their support and their commitment
have been outstanding. In fact, since last October, all Social Security
and Supplemental Security Income payments have been made through
Year 2000 compliant systems at both SSA and Treasury. The tapes
that have been sent to the Treasury Department to generate the upcoming
January direct deposit payments have been checked and certified
for accuracy, and the checks that will go to beneficiaries who still
receive paper checks have already been printed. At SSA, we are
Let me share with you why we
at SSA are so confident about our ability to delivery on our promise
to the American people that payments will be there on time. SSA
depends on its information systems to support critical business
functions. Since we are so dependent on information technology,
we took the Year 2000 problem very seriously.
For us, it began back in 1989
when we realized that we were facing a systems calendar "glitch"
that could cause our computers to break down or shut down. We immediately
began taking steps to avoid any such problem that would affect our
ability to honor our commitment to our customers. Since then, we
have reexamined our entire information technology infrastructure
hardware, software and telecommunications networks
there are no Year 2000 problems. To reach this point, we literally
had to examine every software line individually to see if change
was needed. This monumental undertaking involved reviewing 308
mission critical computer systems, supported by more than 35
million lines of computer code.
We also have almost 2,000 data
exchanges with our business partners, such as State governments,
the IRS, Treasury and the Federal Reserve. All have been certified
as Y2K compliant. Fortunately, we began early and finished early.
Thanks to the work of nearly 2,000 SSA systems employees, including
700 programmers, we're prepared for the Year 2000.
To ensure that we are aware
of what is happening around the country and around the world with
regard to Y2K, we have taken some important steps that will allow
us to respond to any potential problem. For example, in the final
days before the end of 1999, and in the first few weeks of the Year
2000, SSA will operate our own Command Center out of our headquarters
in Baltimore. Our home center will be directed linked to this facility
here in Washington. From December 30th to January 3rd, our personnel
will inspect, evaluate and report on the status of every Social
Security office across the country. And just before midnight on
December 31, Social Security's main data center in Baltimore will
switch to jet fuel generators until the power company notifies the
agency that everything is fine. We are taking every precaution
to ensure that our service to the American public is not compromised
by the Y2K issue.
Immediately after the century
rollover at midnight, our teams will begin assessing our systems'
readiness to process transactions for the year 2000. Later that
day, staff at selected offices will begin to enter data, and we
also will begin testing our national #800 telephone service.
Throughout New Year's Day, Social
Security managers will report to their offices to inspect equipment
and report their findings to regional offices which will forward
data to the command center in Baltimore.
Besides assessing SSA's infrastructure
readiness, our command center will communicate with non-SSA sites,
such as the Treasury Command Center, to make sure we're aware of
problems that might be experienced elsewhere.
We'll be advising the White
House Information Coordination Center, the Congress and the media
regarding our status. Then, on January 3rd, Social Security will
be open for business as usual.
In the unlikely event that there
are any unforeseen problems, SSA also has contingency plans to deal
with such emergencies as inclement weather, natural disasters, accidents
or equipment failure. We have developed a plan to ensure continuity
of our business processes by identifying, assessing, managing and
mitigating Y2K risks. While I don't have the time to detail all
of these, let me give you the most compelling example
our customers will be most concerned about
In the unlikely event of payment
disruptions, all 1,300 Social Security offices will be able to issue
immediate benefit payments to recipients in dire need. The Treasury
Department will issue replacement checks. We know that our job is
not done until every Social Security payment is in the hands of
As Commissioner of Social Security,
I am proud that our contingency plan is being used as a model by
both other government agencies and the private sector.
If, after I'm done speaking,
you have any questions about contingency plans or anything else
related to our Y2K readiness, I have brought our Y2K expert; the
man who is going to make it happen; Dean Mesterharm, our Deputy
Commissioner for Systems. His component is the one that has been
working on our Y2K readiness for over 10 years now.
We want the public to understand
that we are prepared for the Year 2000 conversion. We want people
to have accurate information, and we want to avoid misinformation
and its related confusion that could generate overwhelming workloads,
which could cause disruptions.
We appreciate your help in making
the American public aware of the actions that Social Security and
other federal agencies have taken to prepare for the Year 2000.
The bottom line is that we're
ready, we're willing and we're able to enter the next century with
the confidence that we'll be able to provide the world-class service
that the American public has come to expect from the Social Security
Administration and its employees. Even though the century will
change, our dependability won't. Enjoy the countdown to the
New Year knowing that you can count on Social Security.
Thank you, and I'll open it
up to questions now.
# # #
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