It may not seem as urgent as, say, pressuring India to stop nuclear bomb tests that it began again this week.
But Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, wants the administration in meetings with foreign leaders this weekend to address their poor efforts to fix the Year 2000 computer bug. He warns the pending computer glitch could be as apocalyptic as weapons of mass destruction.He said even the Central Intelligence Agency is warning that the problem could bring global "disruption of power grids, telecommunications and banking ser-vices."
Bennett is chairman of the Senate Select Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, which wrote Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin, asking him to raise the problem in meetings of "G7" finance ministers of industrialized countries this weekend.
The Year 2000 problem, also called the "millennium bug," may occur when the calendar turns over because older computer programs and chips were designed to store only two digits of the four-digit year. So when the year 2000 comes, the "00" will be interpreted as 1900, not 2000.
Resulting crashes and malfunctions, the committee wrote, could bring "major capital markets to a complete halt," not to mention possible "breakdowns in international air traffic control, foreign oil and gas pipelines or in the global telecommunications network."
The committee said, "We are greatly troubled about the seeming lack of urgency of the major industrialized nations in preparing to deal with the year 2000 computer problem and hope that you will make this issue a top priority.
"We strongly believe that the United States must exercise its leadership in the global community to keep such disruptions and dislocations to a minimum," the memorandum added.
The committee warned that even though U.S. companies are spending billions to resolve Year 2000 problems, they could still be hurt if others worldwide do not take similar steps.
"Several large U.S. banks are already warning of international financial disruptions of a magnitude similar to, or larger than, the current Asian financial crisis," Bennett's committee wrote.
"There still is time, though barely so, to avert a major crisis."