The Public Policy of Y2K : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I was an economics and political science double major in college. The Role of Public Policy has always fascinated me. As I look at Y2K, I see it as the greatest public policy challenge ever encountered. It seems to me, FWIW, that the government is having a VERY difficult time right now (and has all along) with formulating a clear policy on Y2K. I don't believe that it's a monster conspiracy, but rather, alot of people just trying to do the best they can. Unfortunately, for civil servants, the best just doesn't cut it. (Apologies and no offense to the civil servants out there).

Look at the record: All along, the White House has had as a policy to downplay the significance of Y2K - Thus the BITR analogy.

The Red Cross didn't quite get this message however, did they? They started distributing Y2K prep pamphlets early on. It was in writing, then. So then the Whitehouse has to at least come that far, and starts talking about long weekends.

The Senate and House certainly didn't initially play along with this. Look at the early stuff that came out from their reports! Much of it looked "doomerish".

The CIA released all kinds of info to its employees about having cash and expecting social unrest.

The NRC has waffled time and again.

Where has it all gone, then, as a public policy? Well the pressure to downplay publicly has seemingly won out. VERY CAREFUL scrutiny of the Senate 100 day report has to be undertaken before some of the true problems are realized.

It would appear that public policy has settled on this:

Keep the public calm. Hope for the best. As problems arise, attempt to keep them quiet, if they can't be, blame it on something else (terrorism, local gov't, public panic, etc.) Prepare all agencies for worst case outcomes - esp the military. But keep it extremely quiet to forstall panic.

At this point it is probably the best they can do! As a suburban dweller, I can tell you that the NG and military BETTER be preparing for the worst, because when the SHTF, they better be ready!

Listen, in July of 98, the president could have made a speech: "challenge ahead....ingenuity of the american people....unknown results....plan together and prepare....not unlike the settlers crossing the plains in covered wagons.....always one month's supplies....etc."

I know I would feel much more comfortable right now if ALL my neighbors had a month's food and water on hand. Would that be enough? I don't know, but it's one additional month before they knock on my door!

Butr guess what, everybody, he didn't make that speech. Why? maybe he's a DGI, maybe a DWGI. Maybe they did all kinds of modeling, and realized for other reasons that it would create too much unstability, when there was still a chance that things would come out fine. Was it to usher in the NWO??? I seriously doubt it. Just a bunch of people doing the best they can, with the info they had. Reasonable people can have differing opinions, afterall, right?

And, for the record, based on the info at my disposal, I reasonably disagree with the public policy as it has evolved.

At this point there's not much more they can do.

-- Duke 1983 (, November 18, 1999


Chances are Dick Morris took a poll.

-- sorta (like@the.lasttime), November 18, 1999.

Duke - 100% with you, and I mean that in the old fashioned sense, not in the new "100% Y2K COMPLIANT! (disclaimer: compliance may not be 100%)" sense. :)

-- Colin MacDonald (, November 18, 1999.

BTW, speaking of doing all kinds of modelling, did anyone out there look through the Naval War College stuff? It was a very intelligent and acedemic look at possible outcomes of Y2K.

It was probably discussed here at length before I started following this board. In any case, here is a link:

Basically it equated it with different types of events and their peak disruption:

Ice storm: immediate and wide spread disruption, Key question is: How long to recovery???

Flood: Inexorable rising of the waters (read: constant computer ailures, building with time). Peak late second quarter / early third quarter. Key question: What constitutes a "low lying area"

HurricaneS: Series of sector limited failurse ranging over time. Some areas will appear to get off scott free, while others can be devastated. Key question, will overlap cause cascading cross- defaults, and can triage prevent this.

Tornadoes: "The Tornados onset model refers to a "season" of sectorally- and temporally-limited Y2K-induced network failures. This model is the closest to a null hypothesis of Y2K's overall impact, for, in many ways, it describes life as we know it, albeit with a higher-than-average failure rate" Key question: What constitutes learning over time.

Interesting stuff for those of you wanting to look at Y2K as a learning experience, and as an academic study...

It's actually comforted me to know many are taking this seriously, and probably building contingency plans based on like outcome scenarios.

-- Duke 1983 (, November 18, 1999.

Duke, dontcha find it the slightest bit ironic that the Naval War College gave it's public policy conclusions on how to handle y2k to the administration 2 years ago, yet they have ignored it in favor of the policy to 'downplay' 'obfuscate' and otherwise 'mislead' the public opinion in order to stave off 'panic'. The word conspiracy doesn't have to come into play, if you don't want it to.

The folks running our country did not and do not think the 280 odd million citizens (who are also their employers) could handle the truth and prepare in a calm and orderly fashion over a 2 YEAR PERIOD. No fireside chat laying it all on the line requesting a gradual stocking of the pantry, one or two cans at a time, here and there, along with a wee bit extra water. Nope, we were never afforded the opportunity to take on this challenge. We had our choices removed from us through omission. What that should tell you about the creeps running this country is that not only do they have horrible judgement, they think of the american people as a stupid mindless bunch of cattle.

The quicker you can understand this, the easier it will be for you to handle the outcome of this monumental and horrendous BLUNDER.

-- OR (, November 18, 1999.

A great deal can still be done now and after the rollover to minimize the impacts and to assist the public in preparing for and dealing with the impacts. It is not happening at the moment because the Administration has either not acknowledged that we are in a crisis or is unaware that we are. I address some major options that I think are available to us if the Federal government continues on its present course of "action". This is the topic of Part 5 of my White Paper. See for the White Paper.

The last two programs of a conference series are being held tomorrow and Tuesday to address Y2K-related concerns that have been inadequately addressed by the Federal government. If you live in the Washington, DC area or if you have friends, family, or business associates who do, please let them know about these free programs and that they are most welcome to attend. All the details are below:

GW UNIVERSITY NOVEMBER Y2K CONFERENCE SERIES AGENDA "The Y2K and Embedded Systems Crisis: Continuing Pre-Rollover Concerns and Imperatives"

The George Washington University

Washington, DC

Remaining Programs: November 19 and 23, 1999

Sponsored by The George Washington University Y2K Group of the Research Program for Social and Organizational Learning (RPSOL), Department of Management Science, School of Business and Public Management, The George Washington University

This Conference Series is free and open to the public and the media. While no registration is required, please RSVP if possible for planning purposes to Thank you.

Please feel free to forward this to your associates.


Friday, November 19

103 Funger Hall, 23rd & G Streets, NW

4:10 - 4:30 PM Introductory Remarks


4:30  6 PM Panel: "Update on Y2K-Related Health Care System and Health Care Concerns"

Presenters: Paul Albergo, Managing Editor, Health Care Policy Report, Bureau of National Affairs

Margaret Anderson, Director of Policy, Center for Y2K and Society


6  7:00 PM Video Presentation: "Y2K Health and Quality of Life Issues  What More Needs to be Done?" Video of panel discussion from July Y2K Conference at GWU.


[Optional Dinner Break from 6:00 to 7:00 PM during video presentation]


7 - 10 PM Panel: "Y2K and Food Concerns"

Moderator: Stuart Umpleby, Professor of Management Science and Director, RPSOL, GWU Panelists: Sally Strackbein, Y2K Kitchen ( and Vice President, The Northern Virginia Year 2000 Community Action Group (NOVA Y2K)

Jay Golter, Acting President, The Northern Virginia Year 2000 Community Action Group (NOVA Y2K)

Mark Frautschi, Senior Analyst, Center for Y2K & Society

Tuesday, November 23

Two concurrent sessions

Session A: 103 Funger Hall, 23rd & G Streets, NW

Session B: 108 Funger Hall, 23rd & G Streets, NW


Session A (103 Funger Hall)

7:10 - 10 PM Panel: "Family and Community Preparedness, Including Attention to Preparedness Concerns for Poor and Underserved Populations"

Moderator: Philip Bogdonoff, Center for Y2K and Society

Panelists: Jay Golter, Acting President, Northern Virginia Year 2000 Community Action Group (NOVA Y2K) (Invited)

Peter LaPorte, Director, District of Columbia Emergency Management Agency

David Gershon, Director, Global Action Plan (Invited)

Sally Strackbein, Y2K Kitchen ( and Vice President, The Northern Virginia Year 2000 Community Action Group (NOVA Y2K)

Ray Strackbein, Information Systems Consultant, Reston, VA

Representative: National Congress for Community Economic Development (Invited) Faith Community Representative (TBA)


Session B (108 Funger Hall)

7:30 -10 PM Panel: "National and Global Initiatives Aimed at Minimizing Impacts: Exploration of Alternatives in the Light of Political and Organizational Constraints"

Moderator: Paula Gordon, Director of Special Projects, RPSOL, GWU

Panelists: Dr. Lawrence de Bivort, Director, Global Y2K Consortium

Norman Dean, Director, Center for Y2K and Society

Stuart Umpleby, Professor of Management Science and Director, RPSOL, GWU

Dr. Robert Alloway, Director, National Leadership Task Force on Y2K (Invited)

Margaret Anderson, Director for Policy, Center for Y2K and Society

Jim Moody, CEO and President, InterAction


Watch the Announcements page at for further updates.


-- Paula Gordon (, November 18, 1999.


Thanks for responding to this thread. Absolutely, I find it ironic, but I wouldn't necessarily ascribe to the notion that there was/is any malevolence on the part of the administration.

Rather, I believe they have reasons that are in the interest of the "public good", however different that opinion might be. On another thread, someone pointed out that if the gov't had come out early on talking about significant preparation, it could have derailed the boom economy as people shifted spending away from non-essential goods.

Think about it, if discretionary income were shifted from trips to McDonald's, Pokemon cards, the latest fashions, sporting events, entertainment, and INTO essentials such as canned goods, there would be a very basic restructuring (albeit temporary)of the economy. The results could be drastic.....High unemployment, inflation in the essentials areas, etc.

Now what certainty do we have that Y2K will be that severe? None, really. Even at this late date (43 days), there is no agreement. There was even les 1 and two years ago. As a GI, I can see the severity coming, but I'm in the minority, right? And still, I may be wrong.

But I am prepared to be wrong : )

The scenario above is just one potential outcome of the government calling for preparation. My guess is that other potential outcomes have been studied ad infinitum throughout the government, and the current public policy has been determined (at least by the administration) to be the safest route.

Because, however, so much study has been done, we have been seeing this evolving public policy that can be very confusing to the public.

And by the way, the NWC report was finalized in August..and, as I read it, doesn't form any difinitive conclusions as to the severity (tornadoes or ice storm).

-- Duke 1983 (, November 18, 1999.


Thanks for weighing in on this thread. If I were in the D.C area, I would definitely attend the seminar.

As an aside, I believe I saw that you attended one of the early workshops of the Naval war college work. What were your impressions of the process and the work itself. Also, why were you not invited to some of the later workshops?

-- Duke 1983 (, November 18, 1999.


In response to your question, I was invited to the Naval War College workshop that was held in January. I attended that workshop. Only three of us in the January workshop were there because of our knowledge of Y2K. During the three days of the workshop, I tried to do what I could to bring home the complexities of the crisis, particularly the embedded systems aspect of the problem and some of behind the scenes political aspects of what was going on. That approach did not prove to be a very good way to try to impart understanding of a very complicated issue area that has major technological components to it. Indeed, there was no commonly shared understanding concerning the seriousness of the problem. There was also no commonly shared consensus that the problems relating to Y2K and embedded systems constituted a crisis.

I find that the Naval War College's approach to analyzing Y2K falls short of what is needed in the current crisis.

In a crisis, I think that analytical efforts need to be focussed

~ on making sure you grasp as well as you can the nature and scope of the problem and all the key factors, political and otherwise, that are involved,

~ on making sure you have identified the options for actions that are available that will prevent the crisis from worsening or will minimize or prevent the impacts of the crisis,

~ on identifying and making recommendations concerning the ways and means of implementing the most promising options, and

~ on making sure you have successfully communicated the results of your analysis to persons who are in a position to use it to inform their actions.

The National War College's efforts do not seem to be aimed at making sure that the nation does everything possible to minimize the impacts that might possibly occur. Their efforts do not seem to focus on informing those in decisionmaking roles of the options that they should be considering. Recommendations are not being made based on the fullest most realistic understanding of the threats and challenges that face us.

One who engages in policy analysis knows that you begin the analytical process with efforts to understand the nature and scope of the problem. That step is crucial to everything that follows. Part 1 of my White Paper deals with this typical oversight at length. (Http://

The National War College's Y2K workshop products seem to reflect this limited understanding of key elements of the problem. For instance, there is scant recognition of the technological disasters that could occur as a result of malfunctioning embedded systems. The nature of the problem or, as I see it, the crisis, is quite different if it includes an overlay of technological disasters on top of infrastructure disruptions, along with other cascading impacts such as social unrest, economic destabilization, and massive unemployment. If the possibility of technological disasters and the potential for related severe cascading impacts are left out of the problem definition, the resulting analysis will be less useful and germaine since it will not be based on realistic assumptions.

In order to understand the relevance of policy analysis to action, you also have to careful pay attention to the key players, their actions, and the influence that they have. With the Y2K and embedded systems crisis, one need ideally to understand

~ how well the key players are understanding the problem, including how well they comprehend the technological aspects of the problem,

~ how they are currently approaching the threats and challenges posed by the Y2K and embedded systems crisis,

~ what they are doing, and

~ why they are apparently doing what they are doing.

Analysis that does not reflect an understanding of such basic realities seems to me to be of very limited utility to a policymaker.

I have tried to provide some scenarios based on such explicit assumptions in Part 5 of my White Paper. (See the same URL noted above.)

The analysis that has been undertaken by the Naval War College has resulted in the production of some possible scenarios. These scenarios are based on a limited understanding of the problem. They also fail to take into consideration the key players whose actions are playing a most significant role in the way the problem is currently unfolding. The scenarios and the analysis that has gone into them seem to be divorced from consideration of proactive, crisis-oriented actions that could be taken now to minimize the possible impacts that can be expected. To that extent, they strike me as being fatalistic, as in waiting for an accident, disaster, or catastrophe to happen and doing nothing to intervene or suggest possible ways of intervening.

Action based on a thorough understanding of all aspects of a problem or set of problems is what is needed. Recommendations for action need to be based on an explicit concern for preserving the general welfare and ensuring the security of the nation. These are the kinds of efforts that are most needed in this time of national and global crisis.

-- Paula Gordon (, November 19, 1999.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ