John Koskinen's 3/22/2000 Responses to Questions About National and Global Aspects of Y2K : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

In March, 2000, approximately two weeks before his tenure as head of the Presidents Council on Year 2000 Conversion came to an end, John Koskinen agreed to respond to a written set of questions concerning Y2K. I submitted the questions to him on March 20. I received his responses on March 22. I later asked for and received his permission to quote his responses. The questions, his responses, plus additional comments of mine are now posted at httm://

The posting includes some selected references (including information about GICC) and a set of appendices.

I hope that the posting of questions and responses will help advance understanding concerning what has happened and what is continuing to happen. I hope the posting helps clarify what some of the factors were that contributed to the premature declaration of victory in the first days of January. In addition, I hope that the posting of questions and responses will help underscore the need to acknowledge and address the problems that continue to occur and the need to resume efforts, where need be, to prevent problems as well.

Through the dedication of thousands of people, worst case scenarios were averted. We know, however, that some sectors did not completely remediate. Problems have occurred as a consequence and will continue to occur. The high rate of problems in some high hazard sectors cannot continue to escape notice. Almost all of these problems were of a sort that were expected to occur if IT systems and embedded systems were not fully remediated or remediated correctly.

If these problems continue to occur at their present high rate, it would not be surprising to see impacts reach a level 4 on the impact scale in a year from now. Ignoring what is happening and the probable causes of what is happening will have its costs in terms of lives lost, public health and safety, the environment, and socioeconomic impacts. Declaring victory prematurely has not been without some significant consequences. Action now that is based on a thoughtful reexamination of what has happened and what is happening could help us address and prevent problems and minimize our losses.

-- Paula Gordon (, April 10, 2000


The link httm:// doesn't seem to work for me, any chance you can post the whole thing here? :)

-- Pete Jones (, April 10, 2000.

Aha! That's because the link should read:

-- Pete Jones (, April 10, 2000.

I believe your questions as to how the answers were articulated have merit.

Exerpt from the Q & A:

16) Expertise in Government Regarding Embedded Systems

PG: Now that Gary Fisher of the National Institute for Standards and Technology is no longer working on embedded systems concerns at NIST, who at NIST or elsewhere is going to be providing expertise on this matter to OMB?

Who else in the Federal government can OMB call on for expertise in following these problems and conferring regarding policy?

I have not as yet been able to identify anyone as yet at the Department of Energy who is familiar with the prediction that embedded systems failures could lead to an increase in refinery outages. The IEA report of May 1999 for a discussion of the fact that the failure of embedded systems could indeed result in refinery problems.

PG NOTE (4/4/2000) The IEA report is quoted in the attached appendices.

JK: As noted, you and a few others are the only remaining people who still are waiting for the fabled embedded chip disasters to occur. The consensus is that, fortunately, the problem was overstated and has not resulted in any major problems.

End quote.

The fact remains the year 2000 saw refinery capacity deminished to 84% as of the middle of February, impacted by unplanned shutdowns, causing shortages in distillates.

The Secretary of Energy was lobbying refiners to forego planned maintenance in the first and second quarter to alleviate the shortage in capacity.

Problems were noticed by someone, regardless of the name assigned to the cause of them.

Recovery of refinery capacity to 91% in the past three weeks has averted a disaster in distillate shortages, but the failure of JK to acknowledge the situation is not comforting.

-- Tom Beckner (, April 10, 2000.

PG: It is my understanding that considerable effort
was made in December of 1999 to convince the
nuclear power industry to roll back clocks to 1972
and that this was indeed done. Is this the case?

I remember a news article that stated that Hanford
was planning on rolling their clocks back to 1972
because they would not be able to remediate their
systems before the end of the year.

-- spider (, April 10, 2000.

Weren't clock roll-backs wide-spread in a lot of industries?

I still can't reconcile this with such realities as PC's inability to match mainframes and roll back further than 1980. Wouldn't the resulting lack of coordination provide the setting for potential problems of a major nature? I've never seen this adequately explained.

-- Uncle Fred (, April 10, 2000.

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