Senate: Y2k Fixes Worth the Billions Spent

FRAMINGHAM (03/03/2000) - In its final report, a U.S. Senate committee that was established two years ago to monitor the year 2000 problem declared that the bug is essentially dead and that an estimated $100 billion spent on preparations was well worth it.

Although hundreds of Y2k problems have been reported worldwide since the date change to 2000, they have been relatively minor, according to the report, which was issued Feb. 29 and includes an extensive list of incidents in the U.S. and 74 other countries.

The 13-page list reports numerous Y2k incidents in transportation, utilities, government and business systems. Among the U.S. incidents cited were system glitches at seven nuclear power plants that weren't associated with public safety; the rejection of thousands of Medicaid claims because they were dated 1900 or 2099; and the failure of a U.S. Department of Defense satellite-based intelligence system shortly after midnight, when the rollover occurred.

The United States Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem also concluded that in addition to averting major problems, Y2k preparations provided "enduring" benefits.

"Most significantly, the IT infrastructure and mechanisms for more effectively managing it have been modernized," the report states. "Also, Y2k has caused a heightened level of knowledge among executive-level managers as to the importance and vulnerabilities of information technology."

Federal estimates set the cost of year 2000 preparations in the U.S. at $100 billion, with 8.4% of that amount spent by the government. But observers' estimates put the figure much higher - from $150 billion to $225 billion in U.S. government and business expenditures, as estimated by Stamford, Conn.-based Gartner Group Inc., to International Data Corp.'s (IDC) $320 billion worldwide estimate.

Tom Oleson, a research director at IDC in Framingham, Mass., said he agrees with the Senate's report. "On the whole, [the committee] was one of the better sources of information - better than all those yahoos who were predicting the sky was falling."

According to Dale Vecchio, a Y2k analyst at Gartner Group, much of the money spent preparing for the bug can be attributed to "modernization costs," expenditures that are now returning high dividends.

"You're probably getting back $6 or $7 for every dollar you spent," said Capers Jones, a chief scientist at Artemis Management Systems in Boulder, Colo., who analyzes software issues.

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