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1998-04-15 11:01:58


Caspar Weinberger Sounds the Warning: Slow Response



Caspar Weinberger is the Chairman of FORBES. Unlike the FORBES journalist whose hatchet job on y2k was such a blatant piece of schlock, Mr. Weinberger has some real-world experience in positions of authority, including a highly successful career as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of Defense. He recognizes the looming problem.

This is from FORBES (April 20).

* * * * * * *

It is widely known that most computers will have serious problems after midnight, Dec. 31, 1999, because most of them, if the software is not fixed, use two-digit dating systems that report the "00" of the year 2000 (Y2K) as 1900.

The chaos that could ensue has been reasonably well documented. . . .

The world is heavily dependent on software for computers. An average-size company may use hundreds of programs; the Department of Defense uses thousands, as well as about 600,000 embedded chips, many of which require date correction. Estimates of the cost of averting this catastrophe worldwide range from $300 billion to $600 billion. . . .

Money is not the sole measure of the damage. Only about 20 months remain to complete all the fixes, and, despite claims by various software companies, most of the billions of lines of code will have to be corrected manually, with there being a desperate shortage of programmers. Congressional committees were told recently that only about 35% of the more critically important federal government systems have been fixed. The committees were also told by the General Accounting Office that it is unlikely that even the remaining 5,000 "mission-critical" systems can be corrected in time. And, of course, with the interdependence of so many programs and systems, those 5,000 essential systems that are priority fixes may be multiplied exponentially. There are about 60,000 "non-mission-critical" federal systems that also need saving. Defense is not expected to be finished with the needed repairs on its existing "mission-critical" systems until 2009. . . .

We need to recognize the magnitude of this problem, the cost of not fixing it, and the need for most businesses, large and small, to assign the highest priority to Y2K. If we do so in the next 20 months, American skill, ingenuity and production genius may be able to avoid the worst. Sadly, however, most companies and government agencies are still only surveying the problem, making inventories of what needs to be done and merely talking about it when the problem cries out for action now.


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