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1998-04-08 00:28:48


Expert Warns Congress: Not Enough Resources to Meet Deadline



On March 18, Dr. Michael Hardin testified to the House Subcommittee on Government, Management, and Technology regarding the rising cost of programmers. Governments must meet the wages offered by private industry.

Hardin referred to this as a "critical, and perhaps even fatal aspect of the governmentís ability to successfully deal with this massive problem."

This problem cannot be solved. The bids will rise; the supply will remain close to constant. We are facing an inelastic supply curve: more money will not bring forth significant new supplies of programmers.

We are about to see two dreams come true: Cory Hamasaki's (big bucks for mainframe programmers) followed by mine (a bankrupt, paralyzed Federal government).

There is now unconfirmed talk of the government drafting programmers. I love it! Can you imagine what a few thousand ticked-off mainframe programmers could do to every one of the Federal government's computer systems? How could the paper-pushing, responsibility-avoiding, clueless bureaucrats prevent the ultimate sabotaging of the New Deal, Fair Deal, Square Deal, Raw Deal known as the welfare state?

It's all over but the shouting. And the gnashing of teeth.

* * * * * * *

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

I am pleased to appear before the Subcommittee to discuss the Year 2000 problem. I appreciate the opportunity afforded me to present to you, and the American people, what I believe to be a critical, and perhaps even fatal aspect of the governmentís ability to successfully deal with this massive problem. That issue is the possible inability of the Federal government to provide, acquire, or maintain sufficient programming resources to tackle the Year 2000 Problem in the short time remaining before January 1, 2000.

With only 653 days remaining, the prospects of achieving success appear ever more remote. As we move toward the Year 2000, our ability to achieve success becomes more dependent than ever on our ability to apply the necessary resources to the problem. Since there simply arenít enough programmers available to fix every system that may be affected by the Year 2000, the law of supply and demand takes over. . . .

Not applying sufficient resources today to fix the problem means that more resources will be required later to accomplish the fix in time. By increasing the demand for programmers, competitive forces will increase their salaries. So not only will we need more programmers, but the hourly cost for this talent will also rise. Every wasted hour today may cost us three or four times as much later for that same hour of work. . . .

Recently, Capers Jones, a noted authority on the Year 2000 Problem, estimated that the amount of labor needed to find, fix and test all of the Year 2000-impacted software was over 700,000 person-years. With less than two years left, there is no way possible to complete the task for everyone. Many state governments have already felt the pinch. California, Texas, Missouri, Maryland, and many others have reported difficulties in retaining current programming staff or in hiring new staff. They cannot compete with the private sector salaries being offered. Private sector recruiters have resorted to offering "bounties" for trained programmers. And the problem is not isolated to the United States. In the United Kingdom, industry analysts estimate that all available programmers will be working on either the Euro conversion or the Year 2000 problem by April 1, 1998. Out of the 12,000 major UK companies needing assistance, there are only enough resources for 3,000. In Japan, there is an estimated shortfall of 200,000 programmers to fix the problem in time.

In conclusion Mr. Chairman, I cannot overstate the challenge that the Federal government faces in being able to assure itself of having the resources necessary to fix the Year 2000 Problem in time. Nor can I overstate the general industry consensus that the rising costs associated with hiring and retaining talented programming staff will impede the governmentís ability to achieve success in its Year 2000 battle. I urge the Subcommittee to focus itself on determining whether existing budget projections for the Year 2000 are still valid, and to quickly examine what measures can be taken to allow the government to compete on an equal footing with the private sector for the limited amount of resources available. The government of the United States cannot afford to find itself sitting on the sidelines watching commercial entities lure every possible resource out of the public sector, leaving the government hamstrung in its ability to deal effectively with the Year 2000 Problem.


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