We realized that Y2K would be the occasion for the biggest-ever celebrations in most cities around the United States and around the world. We also had the risk, in the middle of the winter, that somewhere there might be a weather emergency. We had to be prepared to deal with the normal events and emergencies that were going to take place over January 1, 2000, in addition to the Y2K transition.

The Information Coordination Center on 12/31/99

So, we set up the Information Coordination Center. Our general operating philosophy was that we would collect, coordinate, and analyze the information, but that emergencies would be managed by the normal emergency centers.

We didn't want to commit resources of the Federal government to the first problem that occurred and not pay attention to other issues, especially in a context where we might have a weather emergency.





In fact, in France, about 10 days before January 1st, they had one of the worst winter snowstorms and hurricanes they had ever had, and we were concerned that might happen here.

Then, as we got through the last couple of months of 1999, the risk of terrorist attacks was added to the hopper. It was a complicated planning process in that last quarter of the year.

Question: What obstacles did you face in getting people to take this seriously?

Answer: Two years ago, when I testified for the first time in the Senate, I told the Senators that our problem was a balancing act. We needed to get people to treat the problem seriously, without causing people in the public to over-react.

At that time, three-quarters of the countries in the world had no plans to deal with Y2K at all, and there were a lot of organizations in the United States that had started late or hadn't started at all. So, we needed people to understand that this was a significant challenge that they needed to address.

On the other hand, if we weren't careful in talking about the seriousness of the problem, we would create the risk of additional problems like runs on banks, people stockpiling pharmaceuticals, food, or gas, or other issues. It was an on-going challenge to keep the balance -- to get people to fix their systems without simultaneously creating a real problem economically.

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