On New Year's Eve, he'll be at the epicenter of Y2K action

On New Year's Eve, he'll be at the epicenter of Y2K action

Retired Lt. Gen. Peter A. Kind says one daunting task is to ensure information flows freely into and out of the center.

By Christopher J. Dorobek

GCN Staff

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Peter A. Kind increasingly finds himself in the year 2000 hot seat.

And, as chief of the Y2K Information Coordination Center, that seat will only get hotter as the days slip away toward Jan. 1. That's because Kind and ICC will be the eyes, ears and voice of the Clinton administration regarding what is happening as computers conduct their own year 2000 celebrations.

John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, created the center and tapped Kind to head it earlier this year after realizing that the government needed a command center to track the rollover and events in the days immediately following Dec. 31 [GCN, April 26, Page 1].

'The existing architecture within the government for collecting information in situations that might be even remotely parallel to the Y2K transition is the roughly 15 emergency operations centers in agencies ranging from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to the State Department,' Koskinen said.

But none of these centers is capable of collecting and coordinating information about systems operations from and across the entire federal government, state, local and tribal governments, critical areas of the private sector, and countries around the world, he said.

ICC is on the upper floors of a building just blocks from the White House. The facility looks as if it's still under construction'even the nameplates on the doors of the 20 or so ICC staff members' offices are printed on paper.

But Kind is not disturbed by the makeshift office arrangements. His military background has made him accustomed to unusual environments, which are common during troop deployments.

Comm savvy

He also has experience in large-scale information and communications systems. In the early 1990s he was the Army's director of information systems for command, control and communications.

At ICC, he has had to set up a systems operation from the ground up in fewer than six months. He had to get a budget in place, recruit a staff and establish the information flow.

The center is using existing lines of communication that have been set up among the federal agencies and the 25 working groups within Koskinen's council that represent everything from financial institutions to utility companies.

The ICC staff, which will nearly double to 40 by the end of the year, will be made up of representatives on assignment to ICC who will be responsible for their agency's focus. State is concentrating on international issues, and the Energy Department is spearheading oversight of utilities, for example.

Each agency representative is 'in the best position to tell of things that are of interest to the agency and highlight it back to the agency,' Kind said.

One daunting task is to ensure that information flows freely into and out of the center, Kind said. To make that happen, the center is automating many of its reporting tasks. The reporting system has been designed to be IT smart, Kind said.

'We're using a database as the engine for this,' he said. Because of concern about systems espionage, he refused to give technical details about the center's systems plans.

'One of the things about doing this is we actually won't have to go through a lot of serial questions. We'll have it all planned out in advance,' Kind said.

Tell me about it

The center receives data from several groups and uses standard reporting systems. Reports can be made online, by telephone or via fax, and there are backups, Kind said. In the worst case, the groups can use FEMA's emergency network.

'We've planned for alternatives in each of the cases,' Kind said.

The ICC team is also working to automate the process of getting data to those who need it. 'The important thing is to identify the information that's needed and get that from the sources,' Kind said.

An evolving project is to determine who will need what information so data can be delivered automatically.

'Once it's been entered and met the approval requirement, it will automatically go to all of the agencies that have expressed a need for that data, not serially through the ICC and then out,' he said. 'It's made available to each of them because they've asked for it, we've planned in advance, and they can either request [it] or we will push it to them.'

ICC will test its information receipt and broadcasting systems in October, November and, if necessary, December to ensure that they work, Kind said.

Koskinen noted that the center is not a decision-making group but rather an information processor. If problems arise, the center will shoot the data to the administration's emergency response teams, which will determine the appropriate action.


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