Beyond the millennium bug

Lacking trouble from the date change, federal officials emphasized other

benefits from the massive effort to make computers safe for the new century.

Year 2000 czar John Koskinen said on Jan. 3 that as much as $10 billion

may have been spent on upgrades that proved unnecessary, but he pronounced

the overall compliance effort "a marvelous accomplishment."

While examining computer systems for Year 2000 compliance, the government

discovered that as many as 20 percent were outdated or redundant. Many could

simply be scrapped.

Some highlights:

n The Department of Veterans Affairs spent $220 million on Year 2000

compliance. About $70 million of that was spent on new computers and software

that should improve VA operations, a spokesman said. The effort also produced

"better understanding of the ways computerized systems impact people," he

said.

n The Justice Department spent $160 million fixing its Year 2000 problem

over roughly the past three years, said Linda Burek, the agency's deputy

CIO. Most of the money was spent on PCs and telecommunications lines rather

than on software applications, she said. "[The applications] were running

on top of an infrastructure that was not [compliant]." n The Energy Department

spent $235 million, which also paid for improvements that will help in the

future. Systems implemented to solve the Year 2000 glitch will help to better

regulate energy in periods of high usage — cutting down on heat-wave brownouts.

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