Y2K czar to fly New Year's Eve

While many Americans wonder where they will welcome the new millennium, White House Y2K czar John Koskinen already has his plans nailed down: he'll be at New York's LaGuardia Airport.

Koskinen said he'll take the last Washington-New York flight of 1999, and fly back on the first available flight on Jan. 1, 2000. He plans to be at his office New Year's Day, a Saturday, to coordinate the response to any systems that may have failed, he said Friday at the Consumer Federation of America's annual conference.

Koskinen downplayed fears about a looming potential disaster, and expressed confidence that the federal government would operate on a normal or nearly normal basis. But he is concerned that small local governments, utilities and telecommunications companies are taking a "wait and see what breaks" approach to managing potential problems.

"It is a simple problem from a technical standpoint. But from a management standpoint, it is the biggest challenge since the Second World War, as it affects everything that moves," Koskinen said.

He resolutely refused to wade into the debate about proposed legislation that would offer liability protection for companies working to design fixes to the Y2K problem, saying: "The best way to limit liability is to have your systems ready."

Koskinen hopes to launch a series of community forums designed to cope with local Y2K needs. He also said his focus was on the medical and pharmaceutical and food industries, where issues such as stockpiling must be addressed.

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