SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Only Iowa, Nebraska and North Dakota have completely tested their computer systems and are ready to face the new year without fear of potentially dangerous Year 2000 glitches, according to a federal report released Saturday.
The rest of the states have only 139 days to guarantee reliability of their systems that run everything from law enforcement agencies to utilities.
"No one can predict what might, or might not, happen once the clock ticks past midnight this New Year's Eve," said Rep. Stephen Horn, R-Calif. "The only certainty is that this Jan. 1 deadline cannot be extended."
The report by the General Accounting Office, the investigative arm of Congress, was released at a congressional subcommittee hearing held in Silicon Valley.
While all 50 states have some type of plan in place, most said they won't be fully ready until next month and 14 states said their deadline to have all systems tested isn't until October or later.
"States are facing an extremely busy next few months to get themselves ready," said Joel Willemssen, director of the U.S. Civil Agencies Information Systems. "Important progress has been made, but much work remains to avoid disruption of critical services."
The Y2K problem involves older computers that recognize only the last two digits of a year and could read the digits "00" as 1900 rather than 2000. In some cases, that confusion could cause computers to malfunction or break down, potentially causing power outages, air transportation delays, delayed tax refunds, failed medical devices and other disruptions.
While most states lag in preparedness, the Silicon Valley companies that are greatly responsible for the computer chips used in so many systems told the committee they are ready.
"We feel we have one of the best Y2K programs in our industry," said Hewlett-Packard Co. marketing manager Brad Whitworth.
Whitworth said HP, the world's second largest computer vendor, has spent three years and $250 million on internal efforts to avoid Y2K problems.
Intel Corp. government affairs manager Richard Hall said that company's internal review, completed just 10 days ago, showed that 100 percent of its critical applications are Year 2000 capable.
Hall said Intel's biggest concern is that public power, water, telecommunications and transportation could halt at some of its overseas facilities.
Intel also has been working with local and state agencies to make sure utilities and other services will be working at its Santa Clara, Calif., headquarters.
The company has reason to worry, according to the GAO report.
Although California's periodic earthquakes already test many emergency systems, key computer systems that would be used in catastrophes have not been tested for Y2K problems, said the report.
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