House panel told a dash of Y2K fear not all bad

The Clinton administration is close to calling victory in its battle against the Year 2000 bug, but some experts told Congress today that the federal government should not be so assured and should show more concern about potential problems.

Michael Humphrey, business director at Public Technology Inc., told the House Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology that a recent survey indicated that about 57 percent of city managers in cities with 2,500 or more people said they did not think the Year 2000 problem was "an issue."

Humphrey urged Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the subcommittee, and other federal officials to project a less positive attitude about the problems that may occur in the wake of the Year 2000 problem. "There is kind of a feeling—a rosy, feel-good feeling—about this problem for the federal government," Humphrey said. Instead, he said, officials should "project the position that 'I don't know.' "

Federal officials across agencies reported this month that 90 percent of all mission-critical computers should be fixed by March 31, and all systems should be fixed, tested and re-installed well before the end of the year. John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, has repeatedly said the government will be ready for 2000 and no major catastrophes related to the Year 2000 bug would take place.

Phyllis Mann, president-elect of the International Association of Emergency Managers, also urged subcommittee members to push the federal government to communicate more with the public to prepare for Year 2000-related emergencies.

"At the very least, let's tell our citizens to get ready for seven days" without utilities or other services that depend on computer automation, she said.

Mike Walker, deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, told the subcommittee that focusing state and local authorities on fixing their Year 2000 problems and planning for Year 2000 emergencies was FEMA's top priority. "We must fix Y2K where it has not yet been fixed," Walker said.

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