Despite setbacks, DOD vows to fix all date code

The Defense Department will be able to protect the United States and its allies next
year despite the threat of date code errors crippling DOD systems, deputy Defense
secretary John Hamre said this month.


DOD will have all of its 2,304 mission-critical systems year 2000-ready by Dec. 31,
Hamre said at a Pentagon press briefing. As of Jan. 1, 81 percent of the department’s
mission-critical systems had been fixed, he said.


Hamre told reporters in October that Defense would have 95 percent of its
mission-critical systems repaired by January, but DOD failed to meet its own projections.


“We will have about 94 percent of our systems fixed as of the end of March, and we
absolutely will have 100 percent done by the end of the year,” Hamre predicted. The
Office of Management and Budget set a March deadline for agencies to finish their year
2000 work.


OMB has flagged DOD as a high-risk department on its list of six agencies that its
deems as having made inadequate progress on systems readiness.


Nevertheless, Hamre said senior officials are confident that DOD will not suffer
wide-scale disruptions. He acknowledged that some systems problems will likely be
nuisances. For any problems that do arise, Defense will have contingency plans, he said.


In the meantime, DOD is testing the systems where fixes are complete. Major commands
will test primary and backup systems to ensure mission continuity, he said.


The North American Air Defense Command in December successfully completed the first in
a series of DOD year 2000 operational evaluations, said Army Lt. Col. Warren Patterson,
operational evaluation branch chief for the Joint Staff’s Year 2000 Task Force.


NORAD rolled over the computer clocks on 24 of its early-warning systems and tracked 30
simulated missile attacks as part of a three-day test, Patterson said. The test was
successful, he said.


“They found there was no degradation in any of the systems, whether they were in
the virtual year 2000 environment or in the real-world 1998 environment,” Patterson
said. “Systems operated as they should as far as the data going into one end and
coming out the other end, within the prescribed timeframe. [It was] accurate, unambiguous,
clean data.”


To prevent the accidental launch of nuclear missiles caused by year 2000 problems, the
United States and Russia will build a shared early warning center that will be in either
Europe or the United States, Hamre said. A DOD delegation left for Russia last week to
finalize plans for the center.


“The [computer] default for failure is not to launch,” he said. “The
default freezes things up. So we’re not anxious that there are going to be accidental
occurrences as a result of Y2K for nuclear command and control systems.”


On the domestic front, DOD will provide consequence support planning for the United
States’ critical infrastructures in the event of year 2000 failures, Hamre said.
Defense, in concert with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will conduct exercises
over the next few months to coordinate how DOD might help civilian agencies deal with
critical failures.


“We’re going to go through a series of exercises to determine where would we
be called to do supplementary support activities,” Hamre said. “We mobilize so
we can bring assets to the table such as power generation, air traffic control and water
purification capabilities.”


Defense will support a governmentwide command center and establish its own center,
Hamre said. There are no plans, however, to mobilize the National Guard or active duty
forces for year 2000 contingency operations.


“We’re not going to know the extent to which and how we should best support
the civil sector until we go through some planning,” Hamre said. “People
shouldn’t be anxious about that. We will be ready to support whatever has to happen,
but we’re not going to know the dimension of that yet for another couple of
weeks.” 

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