U.S. Y2K czar says government's critical systems will be OK

Associated Press/January 21, 1999
By Chris Allbritton

New York -- The president's Y2K point man said Wednesday the federal government is responding well to the computer bug, but small businesses and other countries are falling behind.

In testimony in Washington before the House's Government Reform and Oversight committee and the Committee on Science, John Koskinen said more than 80 percent of the government's systems would meet President Clinton's March 31 deadline for being ready to begin final testing.

"We expect that all of the government's critical systems will be Y2K compliant before Jan. 1, 2000," he said, according transcripts of the meeting.

The Y2K bug occurs because many computers programmed to recognize only the last two digits of a year won't work properly beginning Jan. 1, 2000, when machines will assume it is 1900. Some computers can be reprogrammed, but many devices have embedded microchips that must be replaced.

The Office of Management and Budget estimates the problem will cost the federal government $5.4 billion, although some private groups estimate it could run closer to $6 billion. The agency said last month that roughly 60 percent of the government's 6,696 most important computers are compliant.

But despite the agency's reports and Koskinen's testimony, Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., chairman of the science committee, was not so optimistic.

"I wish him well and I hope he's right," he said. "We'll soon know."

Horn has long criticized the Clinton administration's efforts on Y2K, giving the government a "D" grade in November for its performance.

The OMB had set Sept. 30 as the deadline for all agencies to have their mission-critical systems renovated. Most agencies missed that deadline, as Tim Wilson, publisher of Y2K News, a magazine dedicated to the bug, pointed out. "I don't blame Congressman Horn for being skeptical," he said.

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