Sens. Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, and Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut), vice chair of the committee, said they are concerned about a number of agencies that are expected to miss the March 31 deadline for all "mission critical" systems within the federal government to be compliant and want all agencies to be prepared for possible Y2K failures.
In a letter sent to 22 agency heads that was also signed by Senate Appropriations Committee chairman Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and ranking Sen. Robert Byrd (D-Virginia), Bennett and Dodd wrote that "knowing the federal departments and agencies are not only addressing Y2K, but also have appropriate Y2K contingency plans will go a long way in assuring the American public that the federal government will be ready."
The request comes the same week the Clinton administration released its eighth quarterly report on the federal government's progress tackling the Y2K issue. Three federal agencies are likely to miss the rapidly approaching White House deadline, according to the report.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, the Health and Human Services Department, and the Transportation Department "are not making adequate progress," the Office of Management and Budget wrote in its report.
Although close to 85 to 90 percent of federal agencies are ready for the Year 2000, "some mission critical systems and services may not be completed in time," the senators wrote. "New or renovated systems may still fail or provide faulty data due to Y2K-related problems."
In addition, senators warned that unexpected failures in infrastructure components such as telecommunications and electric power can impede the functions of critical operations.
Bennett and Dodd are asking agencies to provide a list of department or agency core missions ranked according to priority and a description of contingency plans for any Y2K failure scenarios that would affect "core missions."
If a department has specific responsibilities for national security or emergency preparedness, the senators are also asking agencies to provide an explanation of the steps taken to ensure those functions are not compromised.
In addition, if a department has specific responsibilities outlined in the Federal Response Plan--for natural disasters and other emergencies--the senators want a description of their plans to ensure emergency duties are going to be fulfilled.
They also ask that all agencies provide contingency plans for Thursday, December 30, 1999, through the first week of 2000.
"In the face of great uncertainties over the nation's emergency needs arising from Y2K problems, these concerns make government continuity and contingency planning critical," the senators wrote.
The so-called millennium bug refers to the fact that many computers are programmed to register only the last two digits of the year, meaning that "2000" may be read as "1900." If left uncorrected, such programs could generate errors and scramble the computers that companies use to keep track of customers, run their payrolls, handle their accounts, run elevators, and monitor air traffic, some experts warn.