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International Symposium on the Year 2000

Robert Hebner
remarks as prepared for delivery
June 9, 1997
  • Thank you, Judy [Newton].

  • Good morning and welcome to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

  • Before I introduce our keynote speaker, I'd like to take a moment or two to tell you about how this symposium came about and why we all are gathered here today.

  • By the fact that you are in this room, there are some things I don't have to tell you.

    • I don't have to tell you about the brilliant programming insight used to save storage space 30 years ago that has become known as the infamous "millennium bug."

    • You already know that any bank transaction, phone call or car ride in January 2000 could go haywire if people don't take appropriate action to fix and test their systems ahead of time. If you didn't know how widespread the impact could be, the recent Newsweek cover story certainly made that clear.

    • You need no reminders that we are all racing toward a deadline that, despite anyone's effort, will not change.

  • I've heard that any number of hotels are taking reservations now for New Year's Eve so people can ring in 2000. I wonder how many CIOs, systems administrators and programmers are making plans for a vigil of a different kind on that same night.

  • Like your organizations, the agencies of the federal government have been working to assess the extent of the problem and to put effective implementation and testing plans into place so that our systems will be ready when the time comes.

  • Under the guidance of the Office of Management and Budget, federal agencies are sharing management and technical expertise on year 2000 fixes that are based on industry best practice. The government also is using standard contract language to acquire only year 2000-compliant systems.

  • Here at NIST, we are helping by doing some of the things we do best -- emphasizing standards and sharing information.

  • On the year 2000 issue as on many others, we have worked closely with voluntary standards organizations and with those who use the standards, especially when it comes to the need for objective, neutral tests for information technology.

    • We developed a draft specification to help determine what kinds of tests are needed to check the date and time functions in software and hardware. This document is being considered by an IEEE Study Group as it looks to produce a set of recommended practices for testing systems for date problems.

    • We issued a federal information processing standard change notice so that federal agencies and their contractors can follow a four-digit year format.

    • And we have worked closely with the National Committee for Information Technology Standardization, formerly called X3, on the new date standard that is now making its way through its final balloting period. If all goes as planned, that standard should be available this fall.

  • Sharing information about this problem has gained momentum in recent months as more and more organizations begin to realize they must heed the warnings and start to work on their systems now. In this context, our own efforts to raise awareness about this issue recently have met with fewer blank stares and more knowing glances.

    • People from many professions, many kinds of organizations and many countries are accessing our web site and others like it in increasing numbers.

    • And, well, you trekked to Gaithersburg for today's meeting to gain insight from dozens of speakers and vendors who have thought about many aspects of year 2000 conversion and are willing to share their experiences with all of us.

  • Unlike many other critical technology issues of our day, overcoming the year 2000 problem does not require a major research effort. The solutions are available, and private- sector vendors are ready and able to provide them. As you know, it's time to find the right solutions, roll up those sleeves and get to work.

  • This conference came into existence more than a year ago at a Congressional hearing. The House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Technology had called the hearing to review the origins and extent of the year 2000 problem and to get ideas about strategies and tools that would help facilitate a solution.

  • In the course of the discussion, it became clear that educating people about this problem and working together on solutions were challenges that lay ahead. Chairwoman Connie Morella and other members of the subcommittee rightly recommended that a symposium was needed to tackle this issue in greater depth. As a witness at that hearing, I knew NIST would be more than happy to oblige.

  • With that, I am more than pleased to welcome here this morning a person whose efforts and personal interest in this problem have increased awareness of the year 2000 problem at government agencies and others in this country.

  • Representing the Eighth District of Maryland, where you all happen to be sitting this morning, I give to you our Representative Connie Morella.