"Bennett reflects on thankless job: Y2K alarmist - But Utah senator receives praise at follow-up meeting"greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
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Wednesday, February 02, 2000
Bennett reflects on thankless job: Y2K alarmist
But Utah senator receives praise at follow-up meeting
By Lee Davidson
Deseret News Washington correspondent
WASHINGTON Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, says the press and world never were and still aren't exactly grateful for his lead role in rallying global forces to squash the Y2K computer bug.
"It was a fascinating experience to go through, starting at the point where nobody would listen to you," he told a group of experts conducting a post-mortem exam of how Y2K was handled.
Once he persuaded the press and business world to listen and believe that the problem was real, he said too many later did not believe modified predictions that things would not be too bad.
"People would attack you for not being apocalyptic enough," he said. "And then when the thing finally worked, they attacked you for raising it in the first place" because so few problems occurred that they doubted any threat ever existed.
In fact, Arnaud de Borchgrave, host of the post-mortem exam at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said Bennett and other Y2K experts are now often portrayed as "twittering morons who deserve to be lashed with a cat o' nine tails."
But de Borchgrave added, "Those who know the issue inside and out shudder to think how disastrous the rollover could have been had these costly measures not been taken."
Bennett was even praised by Deputy Defense Secretary John J. Hamre, who credited him with preventing possibly disastrous shutdowns in defense computer systems which he said would have shut down many high-tech weapons and communications.
"I'd like to thank Sen. Bennett for giving us a kick in the butt when we needed it. Without it, I don't think we would have gotten our act together," Hamre said.
Bennett told the group that the Y2K threat had indeed been real.
"It didn't get totally solved. I've got a list here of glitches that occurred all the way from the stock market in Pakistan (where computers crashed) to the slot machines in Delaware (that would not work)," he said.
"We always knew that (sort of thing) would happen. But the big fear was that failures would cascade," he said. "If we could stop the connections (allowing failures to cascade), we could handle the random occurrences. That's what happened."
He added that a major reason that Y2K problems were not as bad as original predictions is that embedded computer chips in machines were not as big a problem as feared.
Originally, 2 percent to 3 percent were expected to fail and stop machinery they controlled. Later, it was found that their time functions failing would not shut down most machines making the overall problem much smaller.
Bennett and Hamre said how Y2K was handled could be a model for handling other major problems.
For example, they noted that it was handled without partisan rancor, and business worked closely with government. Bennett said that may have happened only because it "was a crisis with a deadline."
Also, they said a special committee headed by Bennett was formed to look at how the problem cut "horizontally" across "vertical" areas of jurisdiction by traditional committees overseeing everything from agriculture to banking and small business.
Bennett said many other problems from terrorism to technology should be reviewed in similar "horizontal" fashion cutting across traditional committee boundaries, but "hell hath no fury like a committee chairman whose jurisdiction is violated."
Still, he said he has recommended to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott that more such task forces be formed to better handle such cross-jurisdictional problems.
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