Senate moves to form Year 2000 committee

The Senate last week passed a resolution to form a special committee to oversee how the government and the private sector are dealing with the Year 2000 problem.

The committee, which will be called the Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, will study the impact of the Year 2000 problem on the executive and judicial branches of the federal government, on state governments and on private-sector operations in the United States and overseas. Based on findings, the committee also will make recommendations for possible legislation as well as amendments to existing laws. The committee will consist of seven members and will have an operating budget of $1 million through Feb. 29, 2000.

According to a spokeswoman for Sen. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), who as chairman of the Senate Banking Subcommittee on Financial Services and Technology has raised the awareness of the Year 2000 problem in the Senate, it is likely Bennett will become chairman of the committee. The other members of the committee will be announced when Congress returns from recess.

Bennett "believes it's vital that Congress keep its eye on the safety of Americans, and a committee of this kind needs to have that as its goal," the spokeswoman said.

Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.), chairman of the Governmental Affairs Committee, said he hopes the work of the new committee, along with the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion and others responsible for fixing the problem, will prepare the nation "to meet this crisis."

"There is a real need for a coordinated, concerted effort by all Senate committees to hold all government agencies' feet to the fire to be ready for the Year 2000 crash," Thompson said.

In a brief statement, the Office of Management and Budget said the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion will cooperate with the committee. "We hope the committee will help to further increase [Year 2000] awareness," a spokesman for the council said.

Joel Willemssen, director of civil agencies information systems at the General Accounting Office, hopes the new committee will create an urgency

for a nationwide Year 2000 assessment. "Where are we on telecommunications, on utilities, on transportation, health and emergency services?" Willemssen asked. "To date, there is no national assessment of the Year 2000 problem. This special committee can potentially help fill that void."

Olga Grkavac, senior vice president with the Information Technology Association of America's Systems Integration Division, said the establishment of the committee "sends a signal that the Year 2000 is an extraordinary event. It shows that more is needed to be done to ensure that government and industry will have their systems prepared in time."

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