President Clinton has urged business leaders to prepare for year 2000 computer problems and pledged to work with other countries so that new millennium is "not a cyberspace headache."
The president's remarks followed a weekend resolution by the Group of Eight, a forum made up of world powers, to share information. The group is also seeking to help businesses prevent problems with systems that deal with areas that include defense, finance, utilities and telecommunications.
Clinton, responding to a reporter's question after a scheduled announcement made in the White House Rose Garden, said his weekend trip to England to meet with the G8 leaders resulted in a pact "to work with other countries so that we can help share information and do everything we can to make sure that when the new millennium starts, it's a happy event and a not cyberspace headache."
Clinton has previously issued written resolutions about the seriousness of the millennium computer problem when he appointed his Year 2000 Conversion Council in February. However, the administration has never focused as much attention on the problem as Clinton did in his off-the-cuff remarks.
"I would urge everyone in America who hears this exchange to make sure that they have done everything they can do within their own business sectors to be ready for this," Clinton stressed. He termed the problem a "profound challenge, not only for the United States but for every country" that relies extensively on computers. He also addressed concerns about computer networks being year 2000 compliant.
Clinton said the federal government is "working very hard ... to monitor the progress of every government agency to see that they're ready, and some are doing better than others because some have more profound challenges than others." The federal budget currently totals $4.7 billion for repairs and other preparations at major federal agencies.
Clinton hinted that private businesses may see added support from the government as they prepare for the millennium conversion. "We want to do what we can to be supportive of the private sector in the United States and their efforts to make these adjustments," he said. "But is it a very big problem."
John A. Koskinen, chairman of the Year 2000 Council, has condemned any attempts at federal legislation that would lift legal liability from companies that fail to make year 2000 fixes. Liability concerns can help spur companies to do needed year 2000 work, he told reporters last week. Several senators are considering legislation to create tax credits for year 2000 work, although no bills have been formally proposed.
Leaders of the G8 countries -- the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, France, Italy, Canada and Russia -- met in London on Sunday to discuss the millennium problem and agreed to take unspecified but urgent action in addition to sharing information. The group agreed to work with businesses to stop computer failures that could disrupt defense, telecommunications, financial and other computer systems.
The G8 also agreed to hold a conference of experts in Moscow at an unspecified date and committed $16 million to the World Bank Trust Fund and the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development to combat the problem.