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Spending by the U.S. government and industry on activities to prevent the predicted year 2000 (Y2K) crisis amounted to approximately $100 billion, and other global spending may have been even greater. Debate continues over whether this massive effort precluded catastrophic system failures or the fears were overstated to begin with. This report presents the findings of a RAND study that attempted to shed light on this debate by addressing the following questions: What kind of event was the Y2K crisis? Was the massive and costly remediation effort justified? What lessons does the Y2K experience offer for critical infrastructure protection (CIP)? What do these lessons imply for federal CIP research priorities? The study included a literature review, interviews with government and industry computer experts, and a workshop involving participants in Y2K remediation efforts from industry and government. The report summarizes the workshop activities and synthesizes the key conclusions from all the project activities. It is concluded that new R&D approaches are required to deal with complex and adaptive settings. Vulnerabilities resulting from system complexity are expanding at a much faster pace than our means of understanding them. At the same time, exploitation of infrastructure vulnerabilities for criminal, terrorist, or foreign adversary purposes is a threat that potentially has no boundaries. To make CIP more manageable, research is needed that provides real data and models for understanding highly complex and uncertainty-laden environments. Such research should be a high federal priority and should be pursued aggressively.

The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND Science and Technology.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation monograph report series. The monograph/report was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1993 to 2003. RAND monograph/reports presented major research findings that addressed the challenges facing the public and private sectors. They included executive summaries, technical documentation, and synthesis pieces.

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