Wednesday November 10 11:23 AM ET
Clinton Says Y2k Won't Cause Big U.S. Failures
By Jim Wolf
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Clinton said on Wednesday that he expected key U.S. economic sectors and the national infrastructure to be spared any big failures caused by the 2000 computer glitch.
``While there is more to do, I expect we will experience no major national breakdowns as a result of the Year 2000 date change,'' Clinton told reporters on the White House lawn, accompanied by John Koskinen, head of the President's Council on Year 2000 conversion.
Clinton spoke after the council released its fourth and final report on the giant computer reprogramming task that it called ``the greatest management challenge the world has faced since World War II.''
``When it comes to financial services, power, telecommunications, air and rail travel, leading organizations report they have completed or nearly completed all their Y2K work,'' Clinton said. ``I am confident the Y2K problem, therefore, will not put the savings or the safety of the American people at risk.
But Clinton noted the council's concerns about some lagging small businesses, local governments, smaller health care providers and up to half of local 911 emergency services.
``Now, over the next 52 days, we must continue to reach out to smaller organizations and local governments whose preparations are lagging behind,'' he said.
``If we work together and use this time well, we can ensure that this Y2K computer problem will be remembered as the last headache of the 20th century, not the first crisis of the 21st.''
The federal government has spent about $8.6 billion to prepare for Y2K, a design flaw that could keep computers and the automated systems they control from recognizing the ``00'' in date fields as 2000 rather than 1900 or some other year.
The council's report found the U.S. federal government had completed work on more than 99 percent of all ''mission-critical'' computer systems.
Clinton went on to say, this means the public ``can have full faith that everything from air traffic control systems to Social Security payment systems will continue to work exactly as they should.''
The Central Intelligence Agency and State Department have predicted that Russia, Ukraine, China and Indonesia are among those that may suffer ``significant failures.''
``It is also worth noting that not every Y2K problem will be evident on Jan. 1,'' Koskinen said in his summary of the report. ''Difficulties in systems that are not Y2K ready may not surface until days or weeks after the date change.''