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Y2K hits ATF and other agencies

January 4, 2000
Web posted at: 1:18 p.m. EST (1818 GMT)

by Judi Hasson and FCW staff

Federal Computer Week

(IDG) -- The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms temporarily halted licensing businesses that sell firearms Monday after identifying a Year 2000 glitch that made it impossible for its computer system to read the correct date on their applications.

The ATF licensing problem was by far one of the most serious computer snafus to emerge from the New Year's rollover to 2000. Although federal officials say its Firearms Licensing System will be suspended for only five days to fix the problem, it could affect functions in other law enforcement agencies, particularly the FBI, which uses the system to verify licensed gun dealers.

Y2K sites around the world
Pat Schambach, ATF's chief information officer, said law enforcement officials decided to shut down the system after a test was conducted over the weekend at the ATF's computer facility in Atlanta.

"They didn't like what they saw," Schambach said, when the computer was unable to read the correct date on a gun seller's application.

The computer center processes about 5,000 firearms applications a month, a process that takes 6 to 8 weeks.

Although no other major Year 2000-related snags were reported nationwide, there were spot problems around the country, according to the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion Web site.

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The Energy Department experienced one minor Year 2000-related failure in its more than 545 mission-critical systems, according to agency officials.

The failure affected the Dynamic Special Nuclear Materials Control and Accountability System at the Oak Ridge National Laboratory's Y-12 nuclear weapons plant in Tennessee, according to Energy CIO John Gilligan. The problem in the software that automatically transfers data from the Oak Ridge system to DOE headquarters did not affect the actual system, so there was no risk to the nuclear weapons plant.

Other problems include the following:

  • Federal buildings in three cities reported Year 2000-related problems with various systems that were corrected. In Chicago, the National Archives building displayed the date as Jan. 4, 1980, and had to be reset manually. In a federal building in East St. Louis, Ill., an access system had to be used manually, and the security system at the federal building in Benton, Ill., printed 1982 instead of the correct date. The system was manually reset.

  • There were a dozen equipment problems in the nation's transportation system. The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating whether they were Year 2000-related.

  • A minor Year 2000 problem was discovered at Amtrak's Control Center. The train's system would not retain train symbols as the train progressed and had to be inserted manually and the date reset.

  • The San Francisco regional office reported that the Bay Area Rapid Transit experienced a failure on two maintenance-related computers used for time clocks, but there was no impact on operations.

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President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion Web site
U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms
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