House won’t be bitten by costly Y2K bug

While the impeachment trial was underway in the U.S. Senate, the U.S. House of Representatives was busy tackling the big problems. With only 319 days until the year 2000 arrives, bringing with it the dreaded Y2K bug, the House isn’t taking this problem lying down. House members have once again demonstrated that, despite threats to our nation and the global economy, they are more concerned with their own welfare. They may have been slow to get on the bandwagon, but when something threatens their own pocketbooks, our representatives get hopping.
The Y2K bug threatens to shut down computers and devices controlled by computer chips around the world when the clock strikes midnight Jan. 1. As the year rolls over to 2000, many computers will mistake the year to be 1900, not 2000. While no one can predict with certainty how devastating the results will be, governments and businesses around the world are not treating the matter lightly.
Russia recently announced that it does not have room in its draft budget based on merely $21 billion in revenues to allocate the needed $3 billion to fix the problem. Fortunately, the United States is not in such dire straits.
In a December quarterly report, the federal government estimated it will cost $6.4 billion to bring all federal systems into compliance. Every government office from the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency to the Social Security Office and the Internal Revenue Service needs to fix its systems to prevent catastrophes such as misfired nuclear weapons and the halting of Social Security checks. In total, over 6,000 federal computer systems must be fixed.
Fearing many government and corporate computers will not be ready for the new year, Reps. John Linder, R-Ga., and David Dreier, R-Calif., introduced a bill, H.J. Res. 14, on Feb. 1, which proposes moving the official New Year holiday from Friday, Dec. 31, 1999, to Monday, Jan. 3, 1999. This decision has nothing to do with giving everyone an extra day to recover from partying like it’s 1999, but intends to give everyone an extra day to repair Y2K devastation.
However, there is one system with which our congressional representatives are taking no chances, the House payroll system. When the House inspector general recently announced that the system could not be upgraded and would have to be replaced to guarantee payment of the $136,700 in congressional salaries, our representatives forgot about the impeachment trial and got to work. Wednesday, the House Administration Committee voted unanimously to spend $770,000 on a new payroll computer.
Should other government systems crash, power grids shutdown and rioting take place in the streets next January, at least we will all be able to sleep comfortably in the knowledge that the House’s payroll computer, scheduled to be in place in July, will deliver paychecks to our elected representatives in a timely manner. Never mind that congressional aides are paid through a different payroll system that is not yet Y2K compliant.