12/23 story, incase you missed it: Fed, U.S. Treasury set up special Y2K monitoring posts

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Fed, U.S. Treasury set up special Y2K monitoring posts Updated 1:25 PM ET December 23, 1999 By Glenn Somerville WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Federal Reserve has set up a Year 2000 "war room" and the Treasury Department's is in the works for the New Year's weekend in case of any financial meltdown caused by the millennium computer bug.

Starting Friday, Dec. 31, the two key agencies will staff special centers round-the-clock to watch for any malfunctions in computer systems affecting financial systems.

The two war rooms are part of a network of government centers to monitor the date change. Some older computers programmed to recognize only the final two digits of a year may fail to recognize 2000 or mistake it for 1900, which could unleash havoc in any area of life dependent on computers.

The Fed, in its regulatory capacity, has pushed U.S. banks to make necessary fixes to their systems and is confident about their preparedness but there could be problems if financial institutions in other countries experience computer failures.

A Fed spokesman said about 100 workstations have been set up in a special System Co-ordination Center atop the Fed's Martin Building -- essentially converting a dining-room into a sea of work areas equipped with computers and telephones.

They will be in regular contact with two other key Fed centers. One is in Boston where many payments systems are located like the Automated Clearing House that is used, for example, when companies deposit paychecks into employees' accounts. The other is at the New York Fed bank.

Overseeing the operation -- from a raised, glassed-in platform at one end of the room under four television sets and banks of clocks set to reflect times around the world -- will be either Fed Governor Edward Kelley or Governor Roger Ferguson, ready to call the shots if trouble-spots appear.

Treasury's effort will be slightly smaller in scale, though no less intense. About 30 department officers representing senior management will be on 24-hour-a-day duty at an Emergency Information Co-ordination Center from Dec. 31 through Jan. 4.

Current plans call for Treasury's center to be staffed 12 hours a day from Jan. 4-6, after which any dire consequences from the millennium change hopefully will have shown themselves and been handled.

The Fed will start manning its center with a skeleton crew on Monday, Dec. 27, gearing up for day-and-night operations starting on the following Friday and lasting into Monday. It will continue in operation through the first week of January, with flexible hours "depending on how things are going," a Fed spokesman said.

Beginning next Monday, the Fed is asking large financial institutions active in key world markets as well as state member banks to contact the U.S. central bank once a day for a report on how things are going.

That reporting is to continue through Dec. 31, to be followed by one report on the weekend of Jan. 1-2, and reports twice a day on Jan. 3 and Jan. 4. That should provide a key warning signal if computers are failing or acting in any other than a normal manner.

Both the Fed and Treasury will be reporting regularly to a White House Y2K monitoring center, set up on the eighth floor of a downtown office building not far from White House. It will be offering regular briefings on developments around the world as the millennium begins.

And where will Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers be? No one is saying specifically but it's a safe bet neither will be partying on New Year's eve.

"Chairman Greenspan will be be in touch and readily available," the Fed spokesman said. "Secretary Summers won't be here physically but he'll be in regular touch," said a Treasury spokesman.


-- Hokie (nn@va.com), December 26, 1999


Greenspan & Summers have NEVER been in touch!

-- justme (justme@myhouse.com), December 26, 1999.

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