The US government will have completed Y2K compliance work on mission critical systems by next March, claimed the head of the White House's team appointed to tackle the bug.
John Koskinen, chairman of the president's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, has set the 43 different federal agencies the early deadline to enable further testing and before too many systems hit problems using future dates.
"We expect to have all mission critical systems or most mission critical systems completed by 31 March 1999, which will give us nine months to continue to work on them? once you think you're done is the time you begin to test to catch the last mistakes," he said.
But Koskinen said agencies had been forced to delay or cancel a number of projects to concentrate on Y2K compliance and some new services would be delayed until after 2000.
He estimated that federal government will spend $5 billion in total on making systems compliant, including $1.2 billion in 1999. Year 2000 has also been placed on the list of events that can draw on contingency funding reserved for emergencies such as natural disasters.
The US social security department commenced work on the problem as far back as 1989 when future-looking actuarial systems began falling over making the transition from 1999 to 2000. Some other agencies had also begun work early and are now well advanced, he claimed.
"We compare well - we're clearly ahead of 90 per cent of the world in terms of countries or governments, which is why I believe our risk exposure is international rather than domestic or from the federal system," he said.
However he said he remained concerned that things like embedded chips could well get missed, as with only two per cent of chips not being compliant it was difficult to identify them.
"You have to remember that in one year alone recently we shipped approximately five billion chips into the market, which at two per cent means there's 100 million chips out there that are potentially a problem? you have to figure out which are which," he said.
US president Bill Clinton spoke publicly yesterday about the need for greater openess and exchange of information on Y2K issues, proposing "Good Samaritan" legislation to shield companies from liability if disclosed information subsequently proves incorrect.
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