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Senate rolls out report on Y2K bug

As anticipated, the Senate today released its comprehensive survey on the national scope of the Year 2000 technology problem.

As anticipated, the Senate today released its comprehensive survey on the national scope of the Year 2000 technology problem.

As earlier reported, the survey, prepared by the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, warns that many organizations are still not directly dealing with problems associated with the Y2K bug.

Senator Bob Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Y2K committee, said that contrary to Back to Year 2000 Index Page popular belief, the Year 2000 technology glitch will not result in the doom-and-gloom scenarios painted by many critics and politicians.

However, based on hearings held before the Senate special committee as well as on Senate investigations, the report found Y2K efforts in the healthcare, oil, education, farming, food processing, and construction sectors to be insufficient.

Additionally, after meetings with officials from the Central Intelligence Agency, Bennett and his vice-chairman Senator Chris Dodd (D-Connecticut) found reason to be concerned about the preparedness of Russia's military for the Y2K bug.

"Russia has some problems," said Bennett. "The military is deteriorating for a wide number of reasons. Y2K adds to that circumstance."

The report finds that over 90 percent of doctors' offices and 50 percent of small and medium-sized businesses have yet to address the computer problem.

Larger firms have, in general, grasped how a Y2K-related failure could severely impact their businesses and have taken steps to remedy the problem. Smaller firms, the report said, remain focused on what they say are more immediate concerns-which, in many cases, do not include Y2K issues.

The report criticizes self-reporting as an unreliable way of assessing industry sectors, comparing it to allowing students grade their own tests. Nonetheless, self-reporting has become the standard in both private industry and government. Unfortunately, the results of many surveys have been kept from public and committee view. Despite a Securities and Exchange Commission rule requiring disclosure by public corporations, many companies are still reluctant to report poor compliance levels.

Like many challenges facing the nation, Senator Dodd said, "Y2K is more of a problem in our urban and rural areas."

The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year. Many computers now must be modified or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900 and may not function, causing widespread disruptions in services in the transportation, financial, utility, and public safety sectors, some observers warn.

The report was released on the same day the Senate passed legislation to set up a $500 million loan program to help thousands of small businesses fix their computers before the so-called millennium bug strikes January 1.