Question: What did you think were the worst, at least moderately credible, possibilities?

Answer: When we first started, there was no information about anything, so we were dealing with the basic issues everybody was. What were the threats to the power system? Were they going to be met? (If you don't have power the rest of it is moot.) So, we originally focused on power, telecommunications, oil and gas, air transportation, and financial systems.

By the summer of 1999, as I told the public, we did not think there would be any major infrastructure failures, either national or regional. We were concerned, however, that there might be enough independent problems to swamp the capacity to deal with them. Imagine if we had 10 or 20 problems in cities in each of the 50 states. We wanted to be sure that state and local governments were dealing with these problems, and, as we moved through the fall of 1999, we got more comfortable that state and local governments were doing a very good job. More and more industries were getting close to 100 percent prepared, too. So, by the end of the year, our focus was on informing the public so that we wouldn't have an artificially induced economic crisis caused by a run on the banks or a problem with shortages of gasoline, food, or pharmaceuticals.

To the public's great credit, as I kidded the media afterwards, the public got it right! There was no significant over-reaction. People bought some extra water and some extra food, but there were no instances of excessive withdrawals of cash. In fact, the Fed printed about $50 billion of extra cash, most of which was returned.

Another of my concerns about January 1st was that we might have a normal computer failure and that everybody would assume it was Y2K related. Because of this, I thought it would be important to know if any problems that did occur were out of the ordinary or not.





So, we collected a series of industry benchmarks in December, which we provided to the world, about normal failures in operations such as ATM machines, electric power, and railroads. It was an interesting catalogue of things that go wrong every day.

Question: I noticed that, even as we neared Y2K, a lot of people were still very anxious. Was there really enough unpredictability at that time to warrant that level of anxiety?

Answer: Well, no, there wasn't. By the time we got to December, we knew that if there were going to be problems, they would be relatively small in number, localized, and probably not cascading or accumulating in a way that would create a major challenge to us.

Nobody, however, could guarantee that. Of the experts around the world, nobody could guarantee me that we wouldn't have a serious, unknown problem. Beyond that, it seemed very clear, as we got through the end of the year, that our biggest risk was increased anxiety by the public. But, as I said, the public got it just right. They understood that it was a big problem and that it was being dealt with effectively. In January 2000, the public was delighted that the problem had been solved, and they were moving on and continuing their lives.

Before the calendar rollover, some maintained that we were really trying to lull people into a false sense of complacency. I was viewed as this guy with a lot of happy talk -- an overly optimistic, nice guy, there primarily to keep everybody calm. I kept trying to remind the public and the press that it didn't make any sense for us to be managing this problem just to December 31. If there were significant problems, and if we had understated them, everybody knew where to find us in January. It's not as if we were going to go into hiding.



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