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Clinton inks $3.4B Y2K budget

October 23, 1998
Web posted at: 3:25 PM EDT

by Margret Johnston and Cheri Paquet

(IDG) -- The massive budget bill passed by the U.S. Senate and subsequently signed by President Clinton contains $3.4 billion emergency spending for fixing year 2000 problems in government computer systems.

The funding, including about $1.1 billion earmarked for Department of Defense systems and computers that support national security, is in addition to appropriations that government agencies have been granted for other information technology procurement, according to congressional Republicans who spoke during a conference call about Congress' year 2000 initiatives.

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The emergency appropriation is slightly more than the $3.25 billion requested by the Clinton administration last month after the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) warned that the government's costs to fix the problem continue to grow. That total is now estimated at $5.4 billion, according to OMB, which also said last month that seven departments are critically behind schedule in fixing their systems.

The Republican lawmakers added that the $3.4 billion in emergency funds still won't cover all the work. The amount is an underestimate of what the actual costs will be, said Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.).

They also expressed concern over what they said is a lack of public awareness about the computer date problem and complained that the Clinton administration has "received failing grades" on its efforts to correct the problem.

However, the lawmakers hailed the recent passage of the Readiness Disclosure Act, a bill designed to encourage companies to share information about year 2000 preparations by freeing them from certain liabilities. They also said that the appointment of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion and the endorsement of Good Samaritan behavior are important steps taken over the past year. They added there would be even more focus on the problem in the next Congress.

One area they plan to address deals with the liability of businesses and individuals, said Rep. Christopher Cox, (R-Calif.). The goal is to protect companies and programmers who make earnest efforts to fix year 2000 problems from being wiped out by a lawsuit if their efforts aren't finished in time or if they fail, Cox said.

Programmers and others who try to fix their systems shouldn't feel the need to hire lawyers before they get started, Cox said.

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