US cities' Y2K report alarms senators

Members of the US Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem last week viewed with alarm a report by the General Accounting Office (GAO) that said only two of the largest 21 US cities are Y2K ready: Dallas and Boston.

The GAO said that 10 cities won't complete their Y2K repair work until what is considered to be just about the last minute - sometime between October 1 and December 31.

US Senator Christopher Dodd (Democrat, Connecticut), vice chairman of the committee, said any city that has set October to December as its Y2K completion date "is travelling in a fantasy world - you're just not going to get it done".

Nine cities should be ready by September 30, the GAO said.

Joel Willemssen, a director at the GAO, said he had "serious concerns" about the progress of the major cities and that many haven't allowed enough time for testing.

In assessing a city's Y2K readiness, the GAO looked at electricity and other utilities, emergency services, hospitals and city services, among other factors.

But Brian O'Neil, a Philadelphia councilman and past president of the National League of Cities (NLC), painted a different picture. A recent survey by the NLC found that 92 per cent of some 400 US cities would have their systems repaired by January 1. The remainder will have 88 to 99 per cent of their systems repaired. "We're ready," he said.

Committee members, though, weren't convinced that the NLC survey was as accurate as the GAO study, because it didn't probe the responses.

"I don't think the American people are really aware of what might happen," said Senator Robert Byrd (Democrat, West Virginia). "I feel very uncomfortable."

Cities that expect to be fully Y2K ready between October 1 and December 31 are Los Angeles; Chicago; Phoenix; San Antonio, Texas; Detroit; San Francisco; Baltimore; Columbus, Ohio; El Paso, Texas; and Washington.

Cities that should be ready by September 30 are New York, Houston, Philadelphia, San Diego, San Jose, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee, and Jacksonville, Florida.

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