But federal response has been nonexistent, Olson said, despite his recent attempts to communicate in writing with officials at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget on the issue.
Olson wants to hold a state and federal CIO summit in Pittsburgh to discuss system compatibility issues in October, an idea that has been met with positive response from other state IT officials.
Indeed, Olson estimates that there are 60 interface programs linking his state agencies with federal officials, all vital for supplying data related to welfare benefits, health care dollars, labor statistics and other critical government services.
"We are not islands,'' said Olson, who oversees the annual $400 million in spending for Pennsylvania state government technology initiatives and operations. "We are partners. But we haven't had any interest from the federal government. No one wants to talk to us. We've seen reports addressing the problem but no one wants to build the bridge.''
The problem becomes immensely complicated by the pending year 2000 software dilemma. As agencies seek to correct the software date codes - establishing four digits to designate a year as opposed to two - there are fears that code fixes with a federal agency will be incompatible with other systems. Olson and other state officials have indicated they may establish computer firewalls to ensure that an incompatible system doesn't wreak havoc with the state agencies' systems.
OMB officials said neither Ed DeSeve, acting deputy director for management and head of the federal CIO Council, nor OMB Administrator Sally Katzen, who has acted as the agency's sole spokeswoman on year 2000 issues, would be available for comment.
After much industry grumbling, the problem has finally gotten notice from the White House. In a recent address on the approaching millennium, President Clinton said that the federal government is working in cooperation with state and local public sector leaders, as well as private industry, to "prevent any interruption in government services that rely on the proper functioning of federal computer systems'' in referring to needed, turn-of-the-century date-code changes.
President Clinton's comments followed about six months of attempts on the part of the Arlington, Va.-based Information Technology Association of America to get his administration to take a lead role on year 2000 issues. Heidi Hooper, the ITAA year 2000 program manager, said the association wrote to Vice President Gore six months ago and then President Clinton about two months later with little or no response.
Speaking for the federal government, Pam Woodside, who oversees state year 2000 issues for the OMB's CIO Council, said there is sincere interest among federal officials to take part in the planned summit. The issue will be brought before the CIO Council in upcoming weeks to gauge members' interests, she said. Until the summit, a resource for state leaders on year 2000 issues remains on the U.S. General Services Administration's World Wide Web site (www. itpolicy.gsa.gov), which contains a link where all federal agencies' year 2000 contacts for state issues are listed.
"I think each entity in the federal government will address the issue,'' said Woodside, who is also the project manager for year 2000 compliance for U.S. Housing and Urban Development. "The people who transfer data back and forth need to address it. But the more we address needs to be done in a consistent manner, the better off we'll be.''