Clinton overlooks the obvious: Y2K

When President Clinton last month unveiled his plan to protect the nation's critical computer systems from cyberattacks, he left out what is arguably a bigger threat to these systems: the Year 2000 problem.

In a speech delivered to the graduating midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, Clinton outlined his National Infrastructure Assurance Plan, in which the private and public sectors would join forces to develop a system by 2000 "to detect, deter and defend against attacks on our critical infrastructures," which support the nation's financial, transportation, telecommunications and other critical systems.

But in what has become an achingly common occurrence, nowhere in his speech did Clinton mention the Year 2000 problem. By now, everyone in government— except, one might guess, the Clinton administration— has come to regard the Year 2000 issue as the greatest threat to national security, with the potential to create widespread chaos. Congress seems to get it. In its report accompanying the fiscal 1999 Defense authorization bill last month, the Senate noted that while recent reports of hackers breaking into Pentagon computers is a concern, "the Y2K problem poses a far more serious danger to our national security."

For sure, Clinton's assurance plan is a worthy endeavor and is part of an overall national security plan. But Clinton missed a grand opportunity to link the protection of critical infrastructures to the Year 2000 problem— a subject on which he has been conspicuously silent, beyond appointing a Year 2000 czar after much cajoling from Congress.

It is time Clinton joined world leaders in raising the Year 2000 issue to the top of the international agenda. The administration's own Year 2000 czar recently told a gathering of industry executives that almost 70 percent of countries have yet to begin work on the Year 2000 bug. With only 18 months until 2000, the Clinton administration could not begin soon enough to elevate the profile of the Year 2000 problem.

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