Administration may rely on National Security Council telecom systems if Year 2000 shutdowns occur

John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, told industry today that the National Security Council will allow the administration to use its telecommunications systems to coordinate disaster relief if massive system shutdowns occur when the Year 2000 arrives.

Speaking at a breakfast meeting hosted by Federal Sources Inc., Koskinen said the government is looking at the contingency plan for moving into "crisis-management mode" because some federal computer systems will not be ready for the Year 200. "It's clear [that] not every system will work, and we will need to plan for shortfalls," he said, stressing that he did not want to appear alarmist.

Koskinen also noted that one of the biggest problems the federal government faces is its computer interfaces with other countries, which he said are far behind in their Year 2000 conversion work. Citing a recent survey that showed that at least half of the countries worldwide have not started the process of converting their computers to properly record the Year 2000 date, Koskinen said the problem could result in a serious foreign policy problem that could threaten political stability.

Closer to home, Koskinen said Congress must consider any new legislation in light of how it would affect agencies' Year 2000 conversion work. Recently, officials at the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Health and Human Services complained that legislation affecting their agencies has increased their workload, requiring programmers to recode systems to make them compliant with new laws. "We can't afford to play games over the next 20 months," Koskinen said.

Although he said he believes it is "unlikely" that federal agencies' Year 2000 costs would reach $10 billion over the next 20 months, Koskinen did say he would push for the establishment of "a pool of funds of $25 million" to be distributed to smaller agencies that need money to fix their computers. The Office of Management and Budget estimated in February that federal Year 2000 conversion work would cost $4.7 billion.

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