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Gop Says Computer Problem Looms But Clinton Administration Says It’s Preparing For Millennium

The Clinton administration is moving too slowly to repair a computer problem that threatens to disrupt the government and affect millions of people unless fixed by the year 2000, several Republican lawmakers said Monday.

The administration denied it is dragging its feet.

But Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif., chairman of the House subcommittee on government management, information and technology, said Clinton officials have failed to proceed with the appropriate “sense of urgency.”

“Jan. 1, 2000, is the one government deadline that cannot be allowed to slip,” said Horn, who has held hearings on the issue and was accompanied at the news conference by two other Republican House members. “The administration cannot issue an executive order postponing the millennium.”

At issue are computer systems that use two digits to indicate the year, such as “97” for 1997. Unless the computers are reprogrammed or replaced, the year 2000 - or “00” - will be treated as 1900, disrupting everything from benefit checks to food safety inspections, the lawmakers contend.

The White House Office of Management and Budget has identified 8,562 separate “mission critical” systems - those that must function for a department or agency to do its business. Three-fourths of the systems are being repaired or replaced, while 19 percent have no year 2000 problems.

“We’ve known it’s been coming,” said Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md., who chairs the House technology subcommittee. “It’s time to do more.”

Horn, who rated the progress of 24 federal departments and agencies on their handling of the issue, said half of the offices had missed a June deadline for finding all of their year 2000 computer problems.

Sally Katzen, administrator for information and regulatory affairs at OMB, said in an interview the administration is committed to “making sure that programs, services and benefits are available and continue uninterrupted for the American people before, during and after the millennium.”

As officials begin to plan for the 1999 fiscal year, Katzen said, OMB has decided against funding requests from four agencies for computer technology spending that is unrelated to fixing the 2000 problem, unless they can prove such spending is imperative.

Tags: Congress