Bennett/Dodd 1-year findings : LUSENET : Millennium Salons : One Thread

(Thanks to Harlan Smith and Norman Kurland)

From the front page Albany Times Union February 24, 1999

Y2K work likely to fall short, panel warns: Efforts to correct computer glitch began too late to stave off disruption, Senate committee finds
ROBERT A. RANKIN Knight Ridder

WASHINGTON-After almost a year of systematic investigation, a special Senate committee warns in a report to be released this week that all segments of the U.S. economy-from hospitals to electric power plants -- remain at risk from the year 2000 computer shift.

The study-obtained by Knight Ridder Newspapers-concludes that while both government and business have worked hard to correct the Y2K problem, their efforts began late, remain insufficient and consequently some incalculable level of economic disruption is inevitable.

"The committee has no data to suggest that the United States will experience nationwide social or economic collapse," the Senate co-chairmen wrote, "but we believe that disruptions will occur that in some cases will be significant. The international situation will be more disturbing. Those who suggest that it will be nothing more than a 'bump in the road' are simply misinformed."

Chairman Robert F. Bennett, R-Utah, and Vice Chairman Christopher J. Dodd, D-Conn., intend to present their findings in Senate floor speeches, possibly as soon as Thursday. The Y2K problem, also known as "the millennium bug," stems from a defect in millions of computer programs used worldwide. To save space, early programmers recorded annual dates by using only two digits; 1999, for example, is programmed only as "99." The first two digits are assumed to be "19."

Here is how the Senate panel sees Y2K affecting various sectors:

Only about 50 percent of electric utilities had repaired Y2K systems as of December. "Of greatest concern are about 1,000 small, rural electric utilities." Local and regional blackouts are "likely," but a "prolonged, nationwide blackout" is not.

Sixty-four percent of hospitals have no plans to test their Y2K fixes before the crunch date. Ninety percent of doctors' offices are unaware of how exposed they are to problems. Federal payment systems for Medicare and other health-insurance programs are behind schedule. "The health care industry is one of the worst-prepared for Y2K and carries a significant potential for harm."

Ninety-five percent of telephone systems are expected to be ready. No reliable data exists on readiness to test data networks, cellular or satellite communications systems, or 1,400 regional carriers.

"On average, the nation's 670 domestic airports started Y2K compliance too late," the report states. "Planes will not fall out of the sky, but flight rationing to some areas and countries is possible."

Banks and automated tellers are expected to function. The Federal Reserve intends to expand available currency to cover withdrawals "and has other contingency arrangements available if needed," Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan said Tuesday.

Among the least prepared is the Department of Defense. Defense reported that only 72 percent of its "mission-critical systems" are ready; Transportation, only 53 percent. The Senate panel's "greatest concern is the ability of local communities to provide 911 emergency services."

Banking, insurance and finance "are furthest ahead," but "health care, oil, education, agriculture, farming, food processing and the construction industry are lagging behind."

First published on Wednesday, February 24, 1999
Copyright 1999, Capital Newspapers
Division of The Hearst Corporation, Albany, N.Y.

-- Bill (, February 24, 1999

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