Mortimer Downey, United States Deputy Secretary of Transportation
July 12, 1999
DEPUTY SECRETARY OF TRANSPORTATION MORTIMER DOWNEY
Delivered during the
FHWA LEADERSHIP MEETING
JULY 12, 1998
Thank you and good afternoon. I am pleased to be with you today, the first day of the FHWA Y2K Readiness Week.
Just about a year ago the Department kicked off our external Y2K outreach effort. With the fine work of FHWA, (Ken Wykle, Denny Judycki, Christine Johnson, and John McCracken to name a few), the July 27 summit -- Awareness to Action -- provided an excellent first step in our Y2K educational effort, working together with 22 partner organizations. This effort has been to show state and local government partners that we have done due diligence.
Many of you kept the lines open and continued to work with these partners and others throughout the past year, through workshops, presentations, articles and letters, and at meetings of ITS America and the Transportation Research Board. All of these efforts demonstrate the commitment of federal, state, and local governments and our private sector partners to getting this job done right.
Now, less than six months away from the Year 2000, we feel confident that DOT and the federal government will be ready on January 1. We also feel that the majority of the transportation industry has taken steps to raise awareness and fix their systems. And we are urging all of our partners to develop, test, and put in place comprehensive contingency plans to prepare for any internal or external problems that might arise.
But we still do not know whether our local and state partners are indeed fully prepared. Without this information, we cannot gauge the extent to which our citizens could be inconvenienced.
As John Koskinen, the Presidents Y2K Czar, has noted, "Our greatest domestic risks for Year 2000-related failures are at the local level. From power and phone companies to banks and water utilities, Americans want to know how the important local services upon which they rely may be affected by computers= ability to process the century date change."
That is why I am delighted that each and every one of the divisions has assigned staff to work with our state and local partners as part of FHWA Y2K Readiness Week. Your plans to address contingency planning in your state and to identify points of contact for the rollover to the New Year are a key part of the national response under John Koskinens leadership.
Make no mistake -- this is a very important effort. The work you put into Y2K outreach now and through the rest of this year will be critical to ensuring that the nation will be prepared to respond to the challenges of the Year 2000 roll over.
Before I go on, I want to clear up some confusion. We have all read that we should treat the weekend like a bad winter snowstorm. That is true to the extent that we should act responsibly, storing adequate supplies for the potential of a few days of inconvenience. As government employees, we must set a good example by refraining from stockpiling, and by reaching out to friends and neighbors.
But we must also set an example on the job we must manage our staff and resources for events that may or may not happen and at the same time ensure sound operations and continued public service.
Some localities might choose to take a holiday on January 3rd, but I assure you that FHWA, like DOT and the rest of the federal government, will be at work on Monday. Some of us will also be asked to work on Friday, Saturday, and even Sunday. This is a small sacrifice to make for helping to ensure that the rest of the nation can enjoy business as usual in the New Year. While final decisions regarding working assignments have yet to be made, I know I will be in DOT=s Crisis Management Center.
The good news for the United States is that we=re one of the last countries to experience the rollover. We will have a 17-hour advantage of seeing how countries from New Zealand through Asia and Europe are doing. But throughout the critical time period, all eyes will be on us. The media, the public, and other countries will be watching.
We need to have access to accurate, timely, and complete information. The Department will be asked to provide updates to the White House every four hours during the critical time period, therefore, we will be depending on reports from your divisions on the status in your state. The format and frequency of reporting required by your Divisions still needs to be determined by the Office of Emergency Transportation. It is conceivable that reporting by exception may suffice during certain periods during the weekend.
In any case, you should encourage your local and state government partners to inform the public of their preparations. Only good information can lead to good decisions.
With less than 180 days to go, we must turn our attention to contingency planning and response. We will be looking to you for answers to these questions during the rollover: Are there problems? What are the impacts? How is government responding?
In addition, we must be able to reach your divisions to share information in both directions in order to avert or minimize any potential problems. You can serve as the information link we will need during this uncertain period.
Once again, let me thank you for your efforts during this Y2K Readiness Week and into the coming year.