Koskinen offers policy tools for Y2K fix

Describing the Year 2000 computer fix as "a management challenge, not a technical fix," John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, last week said he will press for a wide range of policy and legislative initiatives to help agencies meet the Year 2000 deadline.

Koskinen said he plans to establish a $25 million pool of funds to help smaller agencies prepare their computer codes so that the four-digit dates properly record the Year 2000 when the century date change occurs. He also is working on legislation that would permit agencies to shift personnel and resources from organizations that are far along in their Year 2000 fix to those that are lagging behind.

"If there is an obstacle, we'll simply get rid of it," Koskinen said in a speech last week. "We'll do whatever it takes." He spoke at a breakfast sponsored by Federal Sources Inc., the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, the Industry Advisory Council, the Information Technology Association of America and the Professional Services Council. He said that "in a couple of cases" agencies may make a compelling case that they need more funds, "and those funds will be provided." The Year 2000 council chairman expressed his concern that because of the magnitude of the problem, it may be difficult for Congress to pay attention to small agencies, which in many cases need only $1 million or $2 million to fix their systems. He said the time for emergency supplemental bills has passed.

"One of the things we've been exploring with the Small Agency Council is whether we [can] produce a pool that [the Office of Management and Budget] would have that small agencies would be able to reach out [to] for additional resources," Koskinen said.

Dennis Lynch, who heads the Federal Trade Commission's Litigation and Customer Support Division, said the Year 2000 problem diverts small agencies attention away from their mission-related activities. A pool of money would give small agencies "an opportunity to hire consultants to assume some of the workload" and to buy Year 2000 conversion tools, he said.

Koskinen said he is working with the Justice Department to smooth the path for agencies and vendors to work without the threat of anti-trust concerns. He also is considering a standardized reporting process for agencies that must file the same data in multiple forms each month.

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