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Remarks by the President on Y2K Upon Departure To York, Pennsylvania The South Grounds

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The Briefing Room

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release Wednesday, November 10, 1999


The South Grounds

10:05 A.M. EST

THE PRESIDENT: Good morning. Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank John Koskinen and all the leadership that he and others have provided in helping to prepare America for Y2K.

We are releasing our fourth and final quarterly report on public and private efforts to address the Y2K computer problem. The report shows that our hard work in this country is paying off. And while there is more to do, I expect we will experience no major national breakdowns as a result of the Year 2000 date change.

First, the report makes clear that the federal government is Y2K ready and leading by example. Thanks to the efforts of the Office of Management and Budget, we have completed work on more than 99 percent of all mission critical computer systems -- which means the American people can have full faith that everything from air traffic control systems to Social Security payment systems will continue to work exactly as they should.

Second, the report documents remarkable Y2K progress in all of America's critical infrastructure areas. When it comes to financial services, power, telecommunications, air and rail travel, leading organizations report they have completed, or nearly completed, all their Y2K work. I am confident the Y2K problem, therefore, will not put the savings or the safety of the American people at risk.

But in some areas we do continue to have concerns. Some small businesses, local governments and other organizations have been slower to address the Y2K challenge. So again I say to these groups, don't just sit back and wait for problems to occur. Call 1-888-USA-4Y2K, and we'll show you where to get help.

And while most of our large trading partners are in good shape, we still have concerns about the Y2K preparations of some developing nations. The State Department will continue to update it's country-by-country assessments and advisories as new information becomes available.

We have less than two months now until the year 2000. Even those groups that have already completed their Y2K work must now put great emphasis on creating and testing contingency plans, as the federal government has already done. Back in October, when the government made the transition to fiscal year 2000, we did encounter some small, date related computer problems. But the overriding lesson of that experience was that alert organizations, armed with good contingency plans, can fix Y2K disruptions in short order.

Thanks to the hard work of John Koskinen and his staff, and proactive leaders all across our nation, America is well on its way to being Y2K ready.

Now, over the next 52 days, we must continue to reach out to smaller organizations and local governments whose preparations are lagging behind. If we work together and use this time well, we can ensure that this Y2K computer problem will be remembered as the last headache of the 20th century, not the first crisis of the 21st.

Q Mr. President, as the budget negotiations drag on, members of Congress have indicated, of course, they want to get out of town tonight. You don't want to leave town until Sunday. I'm wondering if that is your personal deadline, and doesn't that give you a slight advantage over them?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I don't really have a personal deadline. I did have good talks, as recently as this morning, with Senator Lott and Speaker Hastert. And I've been in constant contact, I saw the Democratic leaders yesterday and we visited briefly. I think we're making good progress. We made some real progress in putting 50,000 more police on our streets. We're making some progress in other areas. We still have to resolve our nation's commitment to 100,000 teachers. We're still working on the United Nations arrears and a number of other environmental issues. But I think we're making good progress, and I'm hopeful.

And we should know -- let me say, I know you have a lot of questions. But actually, you ought to know more by 12:00 p.m. or 1:00 p.m. today about how well we're doing. I think we'll know, certainly by the middle of the afternoon, if we're in any shape to finish more or less when the Congress would like to.

And let me also say I'm still very hopeful that we can pass the Africa trade bill and the Caribbean Basin Initiative. I'm still very hopeful we can pass this very important legislation to let people with disabilities to go into the workforce and carry their Medicaid. That could be one of the most important social pieces of legislation we've passed in a long time.

So we've got a lot to do. But I think we can -- if we just keep working, we'll get there.

Q Sir, could you tell us about the Greek postponement, what precipitated it, your level of concern for the security there?

THE PRESIDENT: Oh, I'm not concerned at all. You know, if the Greek government and the Secret Service aren't concerned, I'm not concerned.

I explained yesterday, the Greeks have a tradition of large demonstrations. And the communists, the anarchists, perhaps some others in Greece, want to demonstrate in large measure, I understand, because they strongly disagreed with my policy in Kosovo -- and presumably before that in Bosnia. And, you know, I think we were right, and I disagree with them. But the fact that they have the right to free speech doesn't concern me.

The Greek government asked us to put the trip when we did, I think, largely for other reasons. I think they thought it would be better for them, and that meetings we have might be more relevant if we did it after, rather than before, the OSCE meeting in Turkey. And so they asked to do it.

Whether the demonstrations had anything to do with it, I don't know. But they might have. But I'm not bothered about it. You know, it's going to happen. And you all get to take pictures of it.

Q Mr. President, can you give us a readout on the WTO talks in China? Any progress there?

THE PRESIDENT: No. I can't. All I know is that they are going on, and we're doing our best.

I've got to run to Pennsylvania. Thank you.

END 10:14 A.M. EST

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