SENATE TESTIMONY: State Department Reviews World Y2K Readiness (USIA, March 5, 1999) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

SENATE TESTIMONY: State Department Reviews World Y2K Readiness (USIA, March 5, 1999)

Just posting the summary because the document is so long. Buried within it are some more chilling Y2K international assesments. -- Diane

USIS Washington File

05 March 1999


(State Department reviews world readiness) (5250)

Washington -- The Inspector General of the U.S. Department of State told senators March 5 that the Y2K computer problem has the potential to disrupt the nation's ability to pursue the foreign affairs agenda and protect U.S. interests abroad.

Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, the Inspector General of the Department of State, testified before the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem.

Williams-Bridgers told the panel that a State Department survey of more than 130 nations shows several key themes. Industrialized countries are ahead of the developing world in evaluating and correcting Y2K problems. Many developing countries are still attempting to find the financial and technical resources to cope with the technological problems expected when computers could encounter difficulty in reading dates in the year 2000.

Williams-Bridgers added that nations formerly in the domain of the Soviet Union are late starters in their efforts to attack the problem. And she said the vulnerability of health care seems evident in most of the countries surveyed.

In its attempt to meet the Y2K challenge, Williams-Bridgers also said the State Department issued a worldwide public announcement on the problem in January, underscoring specific areas of concern in transportation, financial and health care systems.

Y2K assessment and remediation has not been established as a priority in some developing countries, according to the State Department findings. In Eastern bloc countries, Williams-Bridgers said that resolving Y2K problems is complicated by the fact that many countries use pirated software, and thus can not expect any help from manufacturers in attempting to address their problems.

Following is the text of testimony by Williams-Bridgers:

-- Diane J. Squire (, March 06, 1999


Diane; Many thanks. This should help Old Git and greybear who do not have cable for CSPAN.

-- Watchful (, March 06, 1999.

It is on CSPAN again.....12 MT

-- rb (, March 06, 1999.

Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers' report was quite a bit more difficult to look at, mainly because there was so much extraneous detail. In addition, there was little actual obfuscation, apart from information about how the data were collected and what actions were being taken. Once the bits we already know and those we don't need to know were deleted the report was quite straightforward. No big surprises.

"An effective Y2K policy framework is needed to ensure that U.S. strategic interests are not adversely affected by Y2K-related failures on January 1, 2000." [Read, we need to facilitate trade and make sure a US-unfriendly revolution does not take place.]

"[Y2K] could create havoc in the foreign affairs community by disrupting messaging systems, hindering visa and passport processing at embassies and consulates, and shutting down administrative functions such as payroll and personnel actions processing." [Those foreigners employed at our embassies abroad may be a wee bit upset if the paychecks don't arrive on time. Could provide a good excuse for unfriendly elements to attack embassies and other US government installations.]

"[T]he assessment phase should have been completed by mid-1997 to allow sufficient time for renovation, validation and implementation. According to information technology experts, testing, which is part of the validation phase, will account for around 50 percent of the time needed to correct a Y2K problem." [Remember the dates when you get further down - assessment should have been completed in mid-1997. In many countries, that's as far as they've got.]

"As of February 18, 1999, the Department had received responses from posts in 132 countries. The information from this survey, and from other sources. . .is being analyzed by staff under the direction of the National Intelligence Council (NIC). The NIC is providing its analysis to staff in the State Department's Intelligence and Research Bureau. Based on these analyses the Department will determine whether it needs to issue travel warnings concerning particular countries or develop drawdown or evacuation plans for areas where the Y2K problem may pose a risk to Americans living abroad." [Better have several pencils and lots of paper to write down these lists. We have any helos left over from the Saigon Embassy roof?]

"OIG visits began 5 months ago, and the situation in some of those locations may have changed. Generally, embassies' host country Y2K assessments were completed from December 1998 through January 1999." [I doubt much has changed. If assessment should have started in mid-1997 and some countries were only that far 5 months ago, it's not likely they've gone much beyond.]

Locations Visited

September 1998 - Mexico City & Monterrey, Mexico; Santiago, Chile; Panama City, Panama

October 1998 - Pretoria & Cape Town, South Africa; Libreville, Gabon; Yaounde, Cameroon; Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

October/November 1998 - Hong Kong; Bangkok, Thailand; Singapore; Manila, Philippines

December 1998 - Mumbai & New Delhi, India

January 1999 - London, United Kingdom; Moscow, Russia; Kiev, Ukraine; Warsaw, Poland; Paris, France; Rome, Italy; Athens, Greece; Frankfurt, Bonn, & Berlin, Germany

"It is critical to note that, in terms of measuring the timeliness of different Y2K stages, the assessment phase should have been completed by mid-1997 to allow sufficient time for renovation, validation and implementation. . . . As discussed below, many countries, especially in the developing world, remain in the assessment phase for Y2K and face increasing risk from Y2K-related failures on January 1, 2000." [For 'increasing', read 'certain.']

"Most of the 21 industrialized countries we evaluated (7 of which we visited) were making good progress. . . only 5 countries were still in the assessment phase for the electricity sector, and just a scattered few remained in the assessment phase in the other critical sectors." [Twenty-five percent of industrialized countries are still assessing the electricity situation.]

"In one European country, the government did not recognize the serious nature of the Y2K problem and had yet to establish a formal Y2K budget. In addition, government officials in this country were not willing to provide detailed information on their Y2K efforts." [Any ideas? Candidates are Poland and Greece. I vote for Greece.]

"In another European country, which expects a huge influx of tourists for millennium-related celebrations, the government had established a Y2K committee in August 1998 but did not hold the first meeting on Y2K until January 1999." [Got to be Italy.]

"In yet another European country, the Y2K issue was viewed as a technical problem by the government and was given low priority. Public apathy was widespread and no government leaders were willing to take up the issue." [If 'European' wasn't up there, I'd say this was the US. Possibly Germany? Or Poland.]

[Middle East - not only problems re oil but also in desalinization plants for drinking water. This was discussed some time ago on the forum.]

[For industralized countries in the fields of Air, Electricity, Banking, Telecommunications, Travel: Assessment - 9; Renovation/Validation - 57; Implementation - 18. Doesn't look too bad, compared to developing nations, except for that pesky 1/6 still assessing things.]

"Developing countries. . . were generally in the assessment phase toward the end of 1998. . . . The governments of some developing countries did not regard Y2K as a priority and thus had not established committees or task forces to address Y2K on a national basis." [No surprises here.]

"One Asian country we visited in late 1998 was just beginning a national Y2K program at the governmental level. Government officials told us that, although their country possessed significant software development expertise, this talent was largely being used for offshore Y2K projects. They lamented that they could not afford the Y2K services of software companies in their own country." [I believe this has to be India.]

"Officials in another Asian country told us they'd gotten off to such a late start last year that they'd decided to go directly into contingency planning." [Any ideas? Countries visited were Hong Kong; Thailand; Singapore; Philippines. I vote for Thailand.]

"Both the Panama and Suez Canals face the risk of disrupted operations. . . . Panama Canal officials told us they will not allow any ships into the Canal's locks on December 31, 1999; . . . , they can revert to manual traffic management operations should it be necessary. According to Suez Canal officials, their traffic management system is not Y2K ready; however, the vendor, a Norwegian firm, is working on the system, and plans to have it fixed by August 1999." [Both canals represent a significant savings in oil and time. If there are any problems here, international trade will not only be much slower but goods will be far more expensive.]

[Asian countries, Air, Electricity, Banking, Telecommunications, Travel: Assessment - 71 countries; Renovation/Validation - 74; Implementation - 23. Don't plan on spending NYE in Bangkok.]

"Developing countries that were part of the "Eastern bloc" (including countries that were part of the former Soviet Union) were also late in getting started and generally were still in the assessment phase at the end of 1998." [Russia, local telecommunications - toast.]

"During our visit to Russia, officials told us that the safety systems used in their nuclear power plants were based on analog electronic components and thus were not susceptible to the Y2K problem. They stated that other management information systems used by the plants might be affected, but they were still running tests; still, they indicated that these systems were not essential to continued plant operations. These officials were not sure whether there were any embedded devices in the nuclear power plants that would affect operations." [Compare this state of affairs with what the CIA report says. CIA says it ain't so hot. Er, bad choice of words.]

[Ukraine - power system toast.]

[For Developing/Eastern Bloc Countries - Air, Electricity, Banking, Telecommunications, Travel: Assessment, - 29; Renovation/Validation - 13; Implementation - 2. Two-thirds still assessing. Well, there goes NYE in front of St. Basil's.]

"Y2K readiness in the health care sector appeared to be at risk in nearly every location evaluated."

[For health care in Industrialized, Developing, Developing/ Eastern Bloc countries: Assessment - 61; Renovation/Validation - 10; Implementation - 3. Many will die.]

"Also in February 1999, National Year 2000 Coordinators representing over 120 countries established the International Y2K Cooperation Center, an organization of senior executives that will support regional and sectoral efforts to address the Y2K computer problem. The Center will be funded through voluntary contributions to the World Bank and supported by in-kind contributions from other nations." [Read - your tax dollars at work.]

"Finally, the Department of Energy recently requested funding from the Congress to assist countries having Soviet-designed reactors in addressing potential Y2K failures that could cause nuclear accidents." [Read - thank God your tax dollars at work.]

"In our visits to developing countries we were repeatedly questioned about whether the United States would be making funds available to support individual countries' Y2K remediation programs and for developing contingency plans." [I'll bet!] "The primary arena for funding Y2K projects has been the World Bank, which has millions of dollars in grants and loans available for developing counties. However, the World Bank itself has stated that its funding is insufficient and that the industrialized countries will need to step in with financial and/or technical assistance." [Your tax dollars, etc. And remember that Brazil is into the World Bank for about $27 billion, no typo, B for billion.]

"It is now time for . . . a framework for determining what actions the U.S. should consider taking to protect the national interest." [For 'framework,' read 'triage.' There aren't enough dollars or codejockeys anywhere to do what needs to be done to help other countries re Y2K.]

-- Old Git (, March 06, 1999.

There it is, the new phrase that makes the hair stand up on the back of my neck..."making good progress". What relevance is there? Just started two years too late but they're "making good progress"??!!?? Big, gigantic, suck us down in the vacuum-type, spin.

-- margie mason (, March 06, 1999.

You're exactly right, Margie. I've read that phrase, and others very like it, so often these past few weeks I hardly notice it any more. Eric Berne hated to hear that someone's patient was "making progress." He said he wanted to hear someone was being cured. Another Bernism, and I use it often: when someone says they're trying, tell them "I don't want you to try, I want you to succeed." Same with that other related phrase we keep hearing: "significant progress." What the hell does that mean? Well, from what I gather from the report, that could mean just turning on a computer is significant progress compared to some of those countries.

-- Old Git (, March 06, 1999.

More frightening is Dodd statement that "there won't be many problems that can't be fixed in THREE DAYS after 01/01/2000" Give us a break! Fix on failure within three days of the rollover, where did that come from?

-- Bill (, March 06, 1999.

One thing I noticed that's common between both reports, is they're waiting on future information, because what they have isn't all that good. (Duh?)

Gosh, it could be even worse. Somehow, I doubt it's better.

BTW, Old Git I suspect the country expecting a influx of tourists for the millennium is France, not Italy.

Another *Big Sigh*


See also ...

SENATE TESTIMONY: CIA Assesses Global Y2k Readiness (USIA, March 5, 1999) 000ZjV

-- Diane J. Squire (, March 06, 1999.

C-Span is going to rerun this testimony on February 6, Saturday at 2:15 eastern time. It's hair raising.

-- Dave (, March 06, 1999.

Hi Diane, yeah, I wondered about France too. But then I saw where the French are meeting with the US on Y2K matters, so I don't think it's them. Reason I think it's Italy is the Vatican is encouraging a huge influx of pigrims for the Christian part of the Millennium and Italy haven't done anything about Y2K. Well, they've got a committee but it hasn't been funded and, last I heard, didn't even have an office.

-- Old Git (, March 06, 1999.

Old Git,

Yes, and last I heard the Prof. leading the commitee was waiting until after mid-terms to start.

There's an 'Italy's Toast - Update' post somewhere in the abyss.

-- Deborah (, March 08, 1999.

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