Command center ready to lead the way into Y2K

Command center ready to lead the way into Y2K

Teams made up of officials from across government will begin global monitoring effort on Dec. 28

By Christopher J. Dorobek
GCN Staff

During a media tour of the Year 2000 Information Coordination Center last week, John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, said the creation
of the center was a prudent step that should not cause anxiety.

Large high-definition, flat-screen television monitors hover over the Year 2000 Information Coordination Center in Washington, displaying time zones around the world as if symbolizing the international magnitude of the center's purpose.

Beginning at 6 a.m. on New Year's Eve as New Zealand leads the world into 2000, the center will begin monitoring the global impact of the date change.

The $50 million center, unveiled during a media tour last week, was constructed over the past four months. The center is just blocks from the White House in a building formerly used by the Secret Service.

The center will serve as the information traffic cop for incoming information as organizations report their year 2000 status and for outgoing data as officials keep the world informed.

'The challenge to the federal government is to deal with a volume of information that we've never had to deal with before,' said John A. Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.

The ICC team will not make policy decisions, Koskinen said. Instead, the center will gather, analyze and summarize a stream of updates from the government and private sector on systems performance across the country and around the world.

The status reports will be sent to federal decision-makers. The public will also be kept up-to-date through regularly scheduled briefings and on the council's Web site, at

Set up for action

At the heart of the ICC itself is a glass-walled room with 16 television monitors along one wall. In the center of the room are 16 desks arranged in a rectangle, each with a PC and a flat-screen monitor.

Koskinen, retired Lt. Gen. Peter A. Kind, the ICC's director, and other top officials will be working in the central office coordinating the information as it comes in.

Outside the glassed office are groups of desks, each with a flat-panel screen and a small camera for videoconferences. The desks are grouped into sectors'government, financial institutions, energy and telecommunications.

Each sector will have a staff of agency designees. The sector experts will analyze incoming data.

About 30 people are working at the ICC, but that number will increase to about 200 over the New Year's weekend.

Koskinen and Kind have established a reporting network that largely follows disaster-reporting processes used in weather-related and other emergencies. The year 2000 problem differs from such incidents, however, because it is not geographically limited.

'When the president or the public or the media wants to know what's happening, what they mean by what's happening is what's happening everywhere in the world at one time,' Koskinen said.

The information will flow from the field, eventually ending up at the ICC sector desks, and then to Koskinen and Kind.

The ICC has been developed largely using existing infrastructures. Internationally, the center will cull data from State Department embassies, Defense Department bases and other international groups. Within the United States, the ICC is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other federal agencies, as well as state and local governments.

Federal agencies will report on the readiness of mission-critical systems, as well as designated sectors. In addition, agencies will report on the high-impact programs earmarked by the Office of Management and Budget.

The ICC is also working with eight trade groups that will run industry information centers to provide additional year 2000 data.

Kind has created templates to standardize the status reports and make it possible for organizations to file reports quickly. The templates ask organizations to classify their operations as normal, suffering minor problems or suffering major problems.

A normal ranking might not mean that there are no problems, because there are almost always some computer problems occurring at any given time, Koskinen said.

Instead, a situation ought to be considered normal if systems are operating within defined acceptable parameters. The ICC is working on a definition for those parameters.

Most of the status reports will be filed via the Web, although the ICC has backup provisions. Contingency plans for submitting information include using fax machines, mobile phones and dedicated telephone lines.

The center is instructing agencies and organizations to report on their status even if there are no problems. That way, if an outage isolates an agency or area, the center will be alerted to possible problems if no reports come in.

Some agency year 2000 officials said the report filing process was slower than they expected. ICC officials said, however, that despite some initial problems, the center will be ready.

Routing problems

'We've done some tests,' Koskinen said, and there have been some glitches. There were some problems with the way the information was routed, he said.

The center has run two tests so far'one internally and one with agencies'and will do a full operational stress test early next month, he said.

The ICC will formally open for business on Dec. 28 and stay open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. It will begin 24-hour operations on Dec. 30. Nonstop operations will continue until Jan. 3, when the center will go on a reduced schedule until Feb. 29, when the ICC will be on alert for the leap year.

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