Critics: U.S. Y2K travel reports lack detail

State Department officials today released a series of reports that outline for worldwide travelers potential Year 2000 problems in foreign nations, but critics say the reports lack detail.

The reports—included in a set of revised "consular information sheets," which offer international travelers advice on everything from a country's road conditions to its crime activity—cover more than 100 nations.

But at a press briefing today, State Department officials refused to single out any nation or set of nations as being the most at risk for Year 2000 problems. "We don't feel we should do an analysis between country and country," said Kevin Herbert, managing director for Overseas Citizens Services within the Bureau of Consular Affairs. "Do read these and make your own conclusions."

The newly revised consular information sheets were not made available to reporters until after the State Department press briefing today, preventing reporters from asking detailed questions about the Year 2000 reports. None of the reports, however, issues a travel warning for U.S. citizens to avoid a nation because of Year 2000 problems.

Federal Computer Week reported on Monday that Russia, China, Japan and Italy were expected to be among the countries viewed in the consular information sheets as being most vulnerable to widespread Year 2000 failures. The reports point out the potential for Year 2000 problems in those countries and many others.

For example, in the newly released consular sheet for Russia, department officials write, "Although Russia continues remediation efforts and contingency planning, at the present time, Y2K disruptions are likely to occur in the key sectors of electrical power, heat, telecommunications, transportation, and financial and emergency services."

But the reports lack needed information, said Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem. "The State Department report barely scratches the surface of serious Y2K problems facing many countries around the world," Bennett said in a prepared statement. "The report contains boilerplate language, making it difficult to discern the difference in Y2K readiness between well-prepared and unprepared countries. For example, one can discern little difference between China and Mexico, which are widely believed to be at opposite ends of the preparedness spectrum."

Herbert said U.S. missions abroad have been gathering Year 2000 information on host countries since the beginning of the year, twice offering each host country a chance to comment on the Year 2000 information that the State Department planned to include in the updated consular information sheets. "Getting to this point has been a lengthy process, required a lot of work on a lot of people's part," Herbert said.

To access the reports, go to travel.state.gov.

BY L. SCOTT TILLETT
Sept. 14, 1999

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