Senator says agencies could get 'significant appropriations' for Y2K

The chairman of a newly formed Senate committee looking into the Year 2000 problem said today that the committee will consider "significant appropriations" for agencies struggling to fix computers by 1999.

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), in announcing the newly formed Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, estimated the cost of fixing government computers so that they can properly process dates after 1999 could reach $10 billion to $12 billion. That estimate is more than twice the $4.7 billion that the Office of Management and Budget had forecast in its latest quarterly report on the Year 2000 problem in February.

"I don't think there is any question we are looking at significant appropriations before this is over," Bennett said That proposal would break from OMB's long-standing position of directing agencies not to ask for or expect additional funding to reprogram or replace computers.

Bennett said the special Year 2000 committee will serve as "a one-stop shop" for legislative help for federal agencies and will channel funding to agencies that need additional money to fix computers.

At the press conference, Senate majority leader Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced that Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.) will serve as vice chairman. Other members of the committee are Sens. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.), Susan Collins (R- Maine), Patrick Moynihan (D-N.Y.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.).

"The Year 2000 technology problem and how it will affect computers in government is one that we need to be prepared for," Lott said. "We thought it was important to highlight this issue. This special committee will study the problem, particularly as to how it relates to the government."

Lott added that Sen. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), chairman of the Appropriations Committee, and Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.), ranking minority leader of the Appropriations Committee, will serve as ex officio members.

Dodd said Stevens' and Byrd's assistance may be needed to come up with supplemental appropriations to fix the Year 2000 problem.

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