Congress Pushes Year 2000 Fixes

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Congress Pushes Year 2000 Fixes

Congress is eyeing a slew of new rules to push agencies and companies to fix their widespread year 2000 computer problems.

In the House, Republican members are drafting legislation that would bar the purchase of software, unless that software came with a guarantee by the vendor that it contains no built-in year 2000 problem.

"We want to send a strong message to the information technology community that their technology [should] be compliant," said Rep. Constance Morella, R-Md., chairwoman of the House Committee on Science.

"I would agree in principle ... [and] we have been working toward that objective," said Sally Katzen, chief of the information technology division of the White House's Office of Management and Budget.

For example, government agencies are drafting language to help procurement officials ensure new software is proof against the year 2000 problem, and officials are also assembling a database of software products that do not have the problem, she said.

In the Senate, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., and Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah., suggested at a July 10 hearing on legislation about the year 2000 problems in the financial services industry that Congress should pass a law to penalize firms that sell technology crippled by the year 2000 problem.

Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., is also trying to win support for a draft bill that would establish a national year 2000 commission, intended to focus top-level attention on the impending problem.

Ideas for new laws are also coming from industry. For example, Jeff Jinnett, president of LeBoeuf Computing Technologies, a New York-based year 2000 consulting firm, suggested at a July 10 hearing that the government limit product-liability lawsuits on information technology firms if they offer their customers ways to fix the year 2000 problem in products sold several years ago.

If companies have recently sold products containing year 2000 problems, they may face expensive lawsuits from aggrieved customers, said Jinnett, whose parent law firm, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Greene & MacRae, represents major insurance and telecommunications companies.

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