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Fed's advice on Y2K: Get tense but don't panic

March 18, 1999
Web posted at: 8:47 a.m. EST (1347 GMT)

by Jessica Davis


WASHINGTON (IDG) -- Get ready for the worst, but don't panic. That is the message from the chair of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, John A. Koskinen, who delivered a keynote address to government IT executives at the FOSE show here Tuesday.

The federal government has chugged along in achieving year-2000 compliance goals and expects to have 90 percent of its mission-critical systems finished by its self-imposed deadline at the end of this month, according to a report due to be publicly released this week by the Office of Management and Budget.
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    And now that most of those systems have been reworked for the year 2000, government agencies, like their corporate counterparts, will be focusing on creating contingency or emergency plans "just in case."

    "What the public really wants to know is if the services they depend on will work," Koskinen told the group. He recommended that everyone create contingency plans to continue operations in case of system failures.

    However, Koskinen's status report to the FOSE attendees painted a mixed picture of industry's readiness for Jan. 1, 2000.

    The nation's major infrastructures -- its power grid, telecommunications, transportation, and banking -- will not break down but other sectors, such as health care, food supply, and pharmaceuticals are still an area of concern for experts watching year-2000 remediation progress.

    Small health care providers such as doctors' offices should look at their billing systems, their financial management systems, and their reimbursement systems. Typically run on tight cash flows, such businesses may not be very resilient if payments are late to arrive.

    In addition, Koskinen remains concerned about the apathy of small business' toward the issue.

    "They say, 'We'll wait until it breaks and then we'll fix it,' " Koskinen said. But after it breaks, those businesses will be waiting in a long line of their peers waiting for the labor or parts to fix the problem, he warned.

    This spring, a group working under Koskinen will release its first report on year-2000 compliance of members of the pharmaceutical supply chain, the White House point man said. The group will look to establish what are normal inventory levels and then urge supply-chain members to maintain those levels for the date turnover.

    Koskinen's office will also now focus more intensely on international year-2000 issues. The U.S. government has less information on the year-2000 work going on in other countries and therefore remains concerned about the effects of the problem abroad. However, there is currently an effort to create an international test for year-2000 compliance, Koskinen said.

    Jessica Davis ( is an InfoWorld editor at large based in San Mateo, Calif.

    Countdown to 2000
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    International year 2000 issues have forced competitors to team up to find answers and share them with the world
    Computerworld's Year 2000 Resources page
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    Year 2000 World

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    General Accounting Office
    President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion
    Year 2000 Links: National Governments

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