With Less than 200 days until the Year 2000 Thompson/Bennett Raise Concerns About Y2K Emergency Preparedness

(Washington, DC) ? With less than 200 days until January 1, 2000, the Clinton Administration is still in the midst of collecting information from every federal agency and private sector entity on Y2K preparedness and has not articulated a national strategy for infrastructure protection, according to the Administration?s response to a letter from Senators Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Robert Bennett (R-UT).

“The Administration waited until the 11th hour to recognize that they had a responsibility to manage this problem,” Senator Thompson said. “Congress has provided more than $7 billion for this effort, and they don?t have their final emergency efforts in place. That is unacceptable.”

“We have less than 200 days before a technology gauntlet is thrown down for the nation. Y2K presents the first nationwide information age challenge to the nation?s critical infrastructures,” Senator Bennett said. “Possible systems? failures resulting from Y2K highlight the immediate need for a robust and well-organized plan for communication, coordination and computer repair.

Realizing the need for comprehensive Y2K emergency plans, Senate Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Thompson and Senator Bennett, Chairman of the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, sent a May 5, 1999 letter to the Clinton Administration requesting “a formal accounting of the federal government?s emergency plans for dealing with the nation?s critical infrastructure protection at the turn of the century.”

Last year, Congress provided agencies with emergency funds to fix Y2K glitches within their computer systems. From that amount, $11 million was recently released to set up an Information Coordination Center (ICC) responsible for providing federal, state, local and tribal governments and the public with accurate and relevant information on Y2K events. However, the $11 million spent thus far has resulted only in a confusing data collection system created by the ICC. Further, Senator Thompson noted that the absence of an articulate, national strategy for infrastructure protection will hinder the response of the federal government.

The Administration?s June 11, 1999 response to the Thompson/Bennett letter raises more questions than it answers. According to the ICC?s own director, of the 40 ICC staff positions, only 15 are filled. The ICC strategy fails to detail its plan to collect information, fix the problems and effectively communicate information to the American taxpayer. For example, in the event of a failure of multiple mission critical computer systems, it remains unclear as to who would coordinate technology swat teams to fix the problem or what framework exists for making such decisions.

Key questions that remain unanswered by the ICC include:

  • How will the ICC assist in the reconstitution of mission-critical computer systems?

  • How much will the ICC ultimately cost? For what purpose will the funds be used? In April of this year, the ICC received $11 million which funded it through June 1999. An additional funding request for $38 million is imminent. This would bring the total cost of the ICC to $49 million.

  • How and what type of information will private industry share with the ICC?