WASHINGTON — Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said Thursday that all the preparations that went into making sure the country’s computer systems would keep running when 1999 turned to 2000 helped the nation’s financial systems weather the 2001 terrorist attacks.
“There was a strange and appreciated quietude early that New Year’s Day when the lights stayed on and the computers kept humming,” Greenspan said in remarks at the dedication of a new Houston branch bank for the Federal Reserve.
The branch building is being named for former Fed board member Edward W. Kelley Jr., who helped oversee the Fed’s preparations for the year 2000 date change, which many feared could disrupt the operations of the country’s computer systems because they would mistake the 00 for 1900 rather than 2000.
Greenspan said because of all the efforts that went into updating computer programs, the nation’s banking system and other computer systems made the change with minimal disruption.
He said that effort later proved useful in helping financial systems withstand the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, when hijackers flew commercial jetliners into the World Trade Center towers in the heart of New York’s financial district.
“Following Sept. 11, 2001, we found that the Y2K preparations and fixes had far greater reach than we realized,” Greenspan said. “In retrospect, they apparently also contributed directly to the success of the system in crisis mode following attacks.”
Greenspan paid tribute to Kelley, who served with him longer than any other Fed board member. Kelley joined the Fed in May 1987, just three months before Greenspan took over as chairman of the Fed. Kelley retired in December 2001.
Greenspan called Kelley “my friend, confident and golf partner,” perhaps looking ahead to his own retirement at the end of January. On Monday, President Bush announced that he would nominate White House economist Ben Bernanke, a former Princeton professor, to succeed Greenspan at the Fed.
In his prepared remarks, which were handed out in Washington, Greenspan made no comments about his pending retirement or about the current state of the economy.
He did make a brief reference to the Gulf Coast hurricanes, saying, “This region of the country has been through some traumatic times over the last several months and the challenges it faces are significant.”
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