Y2K has little effect on military operations

The millennium bug made few appearances on DoD installations around the world.

After checking with U.S. operational commanders Jan. 1, Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre said "operations are absolutely normal."

While most of the rollover period was uneventful, DoD did experience one significant problem, Hamre said at a Pentagon news conference. "One of our satellite-based intelligence systems experienced some Y2K failures shortly after the rollover of Greenwich Mean Time," he said.

Intelligence officials were unable to process information from that system for two to three hours. "The problem wasn't with the satellite system-they were under positive control at all times," Hamre said. "The problem was on the ground in the processing station."

DoD officials went to a backup plan and were able to start processing the information from the satellites before midnight Washington time, Hamre said. He said the system still isn't up to normal peacetime operations, but he expects that to happen soon. "All of our high priority needs, for the DoD and other national customers, are fully being met," he said.

Overall, as DoD prepared for Y2K, defense officials fixed more than 2,300 mission critical systems. Hamre said he expects few problems, if any, with DoD business systems.

Most of the system glitches officials found were very small, Hamre said. With a range that included everything from cash registers to satellites, he said, most problems were clustered "on the cash register side of the spectrum." "We learned that we did have a cash register that refused to process receipts in Okinawa," Hamre said.

The Navy base at Diego Garcia in the middle of the Indian Ocean lost power for a short while, Hamre noted, but the outage may or may not have been related to Y2K problems.

Command and control of nuclear forces during the rollover was a major DoD concern. The United States and Russia set up a joint center in Colorado Springs, Colo., to monitor early warning systems.

"We have nothing to report from Colorado Springs," said Peter Verga, a deputy to the undersecretary of defense for policy. "The center has been operating normally we have had to process no incidents that fit in the criteria of strategic stability issues."

Verga said the experience has given DoD an opportunity to reinforce relations with the Russian Ministry of Defense. Other Y2K programs with the Russians were equally successful. These include efforts to ensure the safety and security of the Russian nuclear stockpile and strategic communications.

DoD also was concerned about U.S. installations overseas and if those installations would be disrupted by host nation Y2K problems. DoD has more than 100 major installations overseas; many with large numbers of Americans living off-base.

"To date, those installations have checked in with us and all are operating normally both on-base and off-base," said Rear Adm. Robert F. Willard, director of the Joint Staff's Y2K effort.

Hamre reported little evidence of hacking into DoD computers. "There's always skirmishing in cyberspace, but we've had less this weekend than we normally have," he said. "And there is no confirmed evidence of a virus triggered by the calendar rollover."

John Koskinen, the assistant to the president for Y2K matters, said he was pleasantly surprised at the lack of Y2K problems. "We expected that we would see more difficulties early on, particularly around the world," he said. Federal officials are now more confident than ever, that "there will not be any major national or regional infrastructure problems in the United States," he said.

Still, Koskinen stressed, some Y2K problems could surface this week.

"The problem for information processing is likely to run through certainly the next week as we test systems," he said Jan. 1. As people go with their first billing, payroll, and management cycles, and close their books, glitches may appear. But, Koskinen added, officials are pleasantly surprised at the success that the systems seem to be having.

"It is far too early to feel totally satisfied and declare victory," he said. "I think we've got another three or four days of careful and close monitoring ahead of us before we can determine how successful we have been."

Koskinen estimated the cost to fix the Millennium Bug worldwide was around $200 billion. DoD spent roughly $3.6 billion. Given the calm that has surrounded the rollover, some critics suggested DoD overreacted to the Y2K threat.

"The Department of Defense is the bedrock of America's security," Hamre said, "and America's defense is the bedrock of stability around the world. You would not be able to tolerate any problems in the DoD. This was an investment we had to make. And it was a good investment. We have had very few problems.

"Did we overreact?" he continued. "Absolutely not. This was an investment well worth making and Americans should feel very good that their armed services are able to defend them today."

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