One of the advantages to having a businessman in the Oval Office is that he brings sound private sector practices to the function of government. In that spirit, President Donald Trump has ordered agencies of the government to stop filing paperwork proving that the things they do are Y2K compliant. Incredibly, the government has been wasting tens of thousands of man hours filing such paperwork 17 years after the crisis had passed.

What was Y2K?

Back when private companies and the government first computerized their systems data storage space was at a premium.

One way that systems programmers saved space was to truncate the year field. Thus September 20, 1966, would be rendered as 660921. Throughout the 20th Century, this system worked well where date comparisons were concerned. 660921 was a lesser value than 670202, which is how February 2, 1967, would be rendered.

As the 1990s started to draw to a close, system administrators noticed that they had a problem. January 1, 2000, would be represented as 000101, a lesser value than 991231. Every process that relied on date comparisons would be thrown into chaos, with unpredictable and potentially catastrophic results. Lurid scenarios of planes falling out of the skies, nuclear power plants melting down, and the collapse of the financial system filled the media.

How Y2K was averted

1998 and 1999 were the golden age of mainframe computer programming. Thousands of computer programmers worked tirelessly to make those ancient systems that had been patched and repatched to keep running to make them Y2K compliant. When the year 2000 dawned, none of the catastrophes that had been predicted took place.

Some even expressed the opinion that the crisis had been overblown. Thanks to the work of computer professionals, the world did not have to find out.

Why was the government still filing Y2K paperwork?

The short answer as to why the government kept behaving as if the Y2K crisis had not passed was that no one bothered to tell the various agencies and departments of the federal bureaucracy to stop.

Commercial companies have to make money and therefore have an incentive to cut costs. The government relies on tax dollars and has less of an incentive to look for savings. So the Y2K processes went on and on with no end in sight.

President Donald Trump may have his faults, but he does have an eye for keeping control of expenses. A man who spent his life building high rise hotels and country clubs has cost cutting imprinted in his DNA. His administration will thus be a fortunate one indeed for less expensive, more efficient government.