National Guard Magazine Y2K Article Now availablegreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
Don't crowd, Stop pushing back there....
National Guard Magazine
-- Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 26, 1999
*sigh* as usual, they had to find a senior NCO to get any real idea of what was going on:
"Senior Master Sgt. Tom Tabashinski, a technical specialist with the District of Columbia Air National Guard, has led discussions in his own neighborhood. As a citizen airman, Tabashinski does not scoff at those who already are stockpiling necessities in their basements."
-- Arlin H. Adams (email@example.com), January 26, 1999.
Lewis, they told me in an e-mail it wouldnt be out until next week. Lets just archive that puppy -- for the record -- and in case the new flurry of DoD web-site classification zeal tries to take over the National Guards web wonders. -- Diane
Racing Against the Calendar
With only 12 months now left to prepare, the National Guard's Y2K focus involves more than combat readiness. If the computer bug interrupts critical services, local authorities will need help. Maybe lots of help.
December 31, 1999 may be the biggest night of celebration the world has ever seen.
But for some National Guardsmen, the eve of the millennium may mean a long night at the armory preparing to respond to the most widespread technological disaster in history.
Because of programming shortcuts that began more than 30 years ago, most of the nation's computer systems and billions of non-computer equipment that operate off of embedded microchips are poised to malfunction at the turn of the century.
Electricity. Oil and gas lines. Water and sewer systems. Telecommunications. Airlines, trains and transit systems. Agriculture equipment. Emergency-support vehicles. Medical equipment. Alarms. Smoke detectors. Automatic locks. Traffic lights. Banking systems. Public records. All have the potential to go haywire after the stroke of midnight on Jan.1, 2000.
And just like with other disasters, citizen soldiers and airmen are being looked at as the first line of defense.
Only this time they don't know exactly what to prepare for. "There are so many things to look at that. Potentially, we could have a calamity over this," said John Myatt, a Florida National Guard spokesman. The federal and state governments have formed groups to study their own problems and gather information to determine how industries, businesses and municipalities are dealing with the issue so they can develop contingency plans.
But the problem is too broad to monitor everyone and some are reluctant to provide information for fear of liability lawsuits if they do not live up to their claims.
So what's the Guard to do?
"We're going to plan for the worst-case scenario: no power and lots of panic," Myatt said.
If you haven't heard by now, the "Year 2000 problem," or "Y2K" as it is known, is the result of a decades-old situation that materialized when programmers attempted to save computer memory by expressing years in two digits rather than four. Because such programs assume a higher number means a later year, 3002 may be interpreted as 1900.
The gaffe apparently was not as much a lack of foresight as it was over reliance on outdated systems. Rather than replace the programs they knew would be obsolete, owners of the systems chose instead to do piecemeal upgrades without changing the two-digit dates.
The problem is not limited to computer systems, but to anything operated by an embedded computer chip.
This means that anything from thermostats and coffee makers to traffic lights, jail-cell doors and satellites could malfunction with the date change.
Fixing Computers and Embedded Chips
Before Guard units can determine how they can help others, they first have to get their own technological house in order. That is the stage of preparedness many state Guard organizations report to be in. But they say they are confident their computers will be prepared in time.
"Let me go out on a limb and say I think we in the Air National Guard will be OK," said Maj. Gen. Paul A. Weaver Jr., Air National Guard director. "I don't think we will have any major catastrophes, but I do expect we'll experience some temporary mission disruptions that we need to plan for."
Senior Army Guard leaders echo the same sentiment.
Some are finding out how hard it can be to fix what seems like a simple problem. National Guard Bureau officials recently ordered new computers only to discover that some of them will not recognize the millennium. Those that are not compliant can affect the computers that are, said Jack Eck, the bureau's Y2K expert. Also, some agencies and companies are reporting a wait of as much as 72 weeks to receive telephone switches after they are ordered, he said.
While most publicity surrounding the 2000 problem has centered on computers, it is the embedded chip devices that give Guard leaders the most concern.
"Like everyone else, we are having difficulties identifying all of the embedded electronic Y2K devices," Maureen Lischke, the bureau's program executive officer, said. "Given the reality that not everything will be found, we are concentrating on developing and testing contingency plans to assure uninterrupted operations of critical functions."
Unlike computers, embedded-chip equipment can't be replaced with software and manufacturers stopped making many of the parts years ago. Besides that, the people overseeing the maintenance of things like elevators and security systems usually are not computer experts, Eck said. Computer technicians and maintenance workers will have to come together to fix such systems, he said.
Not All 1/1/2000
One thing that also has become clear with embedded chips is that not all problems will transpire at the turn of the millennium. Because much embedded-chip equipment operates on maintenance schedules, some equipment won't register a problem with the '00 raised concerns about how several upcoming dates will be received by both embedded chips and computer systems.
Technology specialists expect there could be problems at the start of new budget cycles, July 1, 1999, for businesses and Oct. 1, 1999, for government offices.
Other problems could arise Sept. 9, 1999, when computers that have been programmed to read 9/9/99 as a shutdown command stop functioning.
All Defense Department agencies have been charged with developing contingency plans to handle situations when equipment doesn't recognize the millennium. For the Guard, that means reporting back on contingency plans made with states. To get the process started, representatives from 50 of the 54 states territories organizations met at the bureau in October to discuss their plans. The bureau will begin testing in May its ability to communicate with the state units in an emergency and the Guard's mobilization readiness based on a "Y2K hostile environment," Lischke said. The bureau may hold a smaller demonstration in March to test the exercise, then hold multiple exercises until September 1999, when officials hope to have all critical missions compliant, she said.
The NGB is expected to establish a high-frequency radio network from Washington, D.C. to regional centers as a backup to microchips and satellites that could fail causing telephones, modems and pagers to stop working.
The bureau reported to the DoD in November that it has agreements with virtually all state governments on how to handle contingencies. However, some states are "reluctant to become too dependent on the National Guard for disaster response because they believe that the National Guard might be pre-empted by national priorities," the report says. Because the department considers the Y2K issue one of readiness, rather than a computer problem, DOD officials have had to prioritize those to be fixed. They have identified 2,642, or fewer than 10 percent of 25,000 defense computer systems, as mission critical. Of those, 774 were deemed compliant in November.
Those systems cover command and control, satellites, inventory management, transportation, medical and pay and personnel. Contingency plans must be developed for the possible failure of each, William Curtis, DOD's Y2K director, told the House subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology at a June hearing.
The problem now is determining what is truly mission-critical. The DOD also developed a "High Risk Systems Board" to meet with those who oversee Y2K compliance for each system that is in jeopardy. Still, "DoD needs to do a much better job in preparing," Curtis said. Earlier this year, the subcommittee upgraded DOD's compliance efforts from a grade of "F" to "D." Of major concern is whether the Defense Finance and Accounting Service will continue to issue paychecks without a hitch. DFAS officials said they expected to make compliant their system that pays Guard members by the end of December 1998.
Whether there will be a federal mobilization at the millennium is undecided, but many Guard officials say that is unlikely. With growing concern from governors about the Guard's availability, most believe the Guard will, in fact, be left to respond to state emergencies.
So far, Wisconsin is one of the few states where Guard representatives are saying publicly that they already are planning to have Guard units staffed on Dec. 31, 1999. But several Guard members said they have heard that at least a dozen state governors are planning a call-up on millennium eve as a preventative measure.
What Guard units will do then or after the date change is unclear. Some say there is only so much they can do to prepare.
"The bottom line is, no one knows the answer to this," Lt. Col. Paul Fanning, a spokesman for the New York National Guard said. "Anyone who tells you they're ready for the Y2K bug probably doesn't really understand the threat."
Maj. Gen. Stephen Cortright, adjutant general of the Oklahoma National Guard and chairman of Oklahoma's state Y2K task force, said the Guard's ability to respond will hinge on how much it can learn about government and business preparedness. "We're not just waiting for them to hike the ball on Dec. 31," Cortright said.
What will be different for the Guard is also preparing to avoid economic emergencies. In Oklahoma, that means staying in touch with the aerospace and oil industries. Some such industries can also spark environmental problems if embedded chip safety systems no longer detect poisonous gases, a scenario that happened to Phillips Petroleum Co. during a test of Y2K systems in the North Sea last year.
However, the Guard will have to draw a fine line between preparing companies and responding to their emergencies, Cortright said. "We're here to monitor, but we're not here to fix everyone's problems," he said.
What to Prepare For
While most units expect to be called upon to direct traffic and evacuate hospitals and nursing homes, they may also be needed to respond for food delivery if grocery stores have to close for several days to fix price scanners.
Then there is the issue of civil unrest. What if bank vaults wont lock and looting occurs? Or, long lines at gas stations cause rioting? "Pick any part of the doom and gloom and you can find all kinds of social unrest in those scenarios," said Col. Dennis Haire, a doctoral candidate in information technology and chief information officer of the Texas National Guard.
As part of contingency planning, Guard units will prioritize their emergencies.
"I'm really not too concerned about John Q. Public's vehicle stopping in the middle of the street," Col. Gerald Olesen, a support staff officer with the Wisconsin office of emergency management, said. "We plan on having enough equipment to move it. If need be, we'll use Humvees to push it out of the street."
What Olesen is concerned about is power outages in January when Wisconsin temperatures average minus 10 degrees fahrenheit. "I'm extremely concerned that blackouts could cause people to freeze to death," he said. Even brownouts could cause medical equipment to malfunction and require hospital and nursing home patients to be evacuated, Olesen said. The Wisconsin Guard is in the process of assessing back-up generators and emergency vehicles for compliance, he said.
Still, Olesen is of the common opinion that Y2K will mean disruptions, not emergencies.
"We're going to have inconveniences, but we've got to stop thinking that we can't live without computers," he said. "If we take care of the emergencies, everything else will fall into place."
Jack Gribben, spokesman for the President's Council on the Year 2000 Conversion, said the White House group is hearing that "the major infrastructure in the country will be just fine." Instead, Gribben said: "We think the disruptions are going to be more at the local level. We're finding, here and there, states and counties that are not on top of it." Gribben echoed concerns of Guard members that whether Y2K is a disaster will depend on public reaction to it.
"The system is not prepared for 250 million Americans to decide all at once to do the same thing," he said.
The answer, Lischke said, is in educating the public early that they cant wait until Dec. 31, 1999, to stock up on groceries and gasoline. "A community that is informed and prepared is the best answer to eliminating panic," she said.
Some Guard members are finding the best way to do that is to be a leader in their own communities.
Senior Master Sgt. Tom Tabashinski, a technical specialist with the District of Columbia Air National Guard, has led discussions in his own neighborhood. As a citizen airman, Tabashinski does not scoff at those who already are stockpiling necessities in their basements.
"The best way I can look at Y2K is in preparing for a storm," Tabashinski said. "Some people are going to be better prepared than others." But Tabashinski warns against every-man-for-himself tactics that promote withdrawing your money and fleeing to rugged areas -- which he notes will be the last to regain services if things like power and water shut down. "Don't run to the hills," he said. "Stay in your communities and work with them. You can't go at this as an individualist." If people stick together, Tabashinski says he is not too concerned about the Guard's ability in handling Y2K.
"Whether we go to war or go downtown, we're going to be prepared," he said. "Contingencies are not new to us, planning is not new to us and responding to emergencies is not new to us."
SIDEBAR: Y2K Story Begins in the Pacific
Guam is where America begins its day.
So as Americans try to determine the outcome of Year 2000 computer technical problems, all heads will turn to the tiny West Pacific island where Jan. 1, 2000, will come 15 hours before the eastern- United States. "We're the guinea pig not only for the National Guard, but for the United States," said Maj. Mark Calvo, Guam's Army National Guard Y2K coordinator.
Like other National Guard units, the Guam Guard has some tough challenges to meet in fixing its computer and embedded chip problems and preparing contingencies for responding to whatever emergencies arise. But island life brings added concerns.
Unlike the abundant natural resources in the United States, Guam relies on regular shipments for nearly all its goods. If transportation systems break down, emergencies could arise.
"Everything arrives to us by plane or by ship," 1st Lt. Irving Vida, Y2K coordinator for Guam's Air National Guard, said. "So if those don't work, we have a problem." Services such as telecommunications that cause panic among stateside residents when blips occur, could bring disaster to the isolated island. AT&T uses a satellite and fiber-optic lines through the Pacific Ocean to supply communications.
"For us, it's a lifeline," Calvo said. "Unless we have some kind of redundancy set up, we'll totally lose communications." Calvo wonders aloud whether the island's government-sponsored electric, water and sewer will be prepared to beat the millennium bug. "Personally, I think that makes a bigger mountain to climb because of the bureaucracy," he said.
Also, "the government may not have the drive to satisfy bill payers." Calvo and Vida are comforted by the fact that Guam has among the highest per capita Guard organizations:1,000 Guard members for 150,000 residents. And they are not new to emergency response.
In December 1997, Super Typhoon Paka slammed into Guam with 220-mile- per-hour winds.
The island was out of electricity and water for three to eight weeks, depending on different locations, Calvo said.
Also, the island is known for frequent power outages.
"We've learned what we can do effectively," Calvo said. The Guam National Guard was first alerted to its responsibilities in the Year 2000 issue when a National Guard Bureau official visited the island.
"It was like a blinding flash at the obvious," Calvo said. "We hadn't even thought of it." Since then, the Guard has tested most of its equipment and is working with the active components, Vida said.
Calvo is proud of the Guards strong reputation, but wonders if it will be relied upon too much.
"What we're trying to avoid is the government giving us too much for the National Guard to handle," he said.
But Calvo is optimistic that Y2K wont be the worst storm to ever hit Guam.
"Personally, I think we'll get through the problems with very few glitches," he said. "But we may be without some things for two or three days."
Vida agreed. "We've responded to calamities before."
-- Diane J. Squire (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 26, 1999.
Arlin- LOL! Too true! Diane- Good idea to archive. Thank you my dear.
-- Lewis (email@example.com), January 26, 1999.
From a discussion wih a Guardsman at work today: "Depends on who's going to get the Guard." Meaning: Will the states get to keep the Guard for duties within the states at the governor's order, or will the Guard be nationalized and put under Federal control?
If the states make their plans contingent on having the Guard available and then they get called-up for national duties, alot of states could get pretty-well screwed. But the Feds might have the Guard units as key elements to their plans, too.
I wonder if all parties have checked thier roadmaps? Interesting dilema, but inquiring minds would like to know.
-- Wildweasel (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 26, 1999.
Most of their roadmaps are in litle boxes with the word "Garmin" on the outside..........
-- Chuck, night driver (email@example.com), January 27, 1999.
There are non-mil types in this digital audience who still need terminology training.
WW, I'll do some more exploring.
-- Diane J. Squire (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 27, 1999.
GARMIN. As in Garmin Industries.
Makers of the wildly successful series of Garmin Handheld GPS navigation systems. A personnal favorite worth buying themselves for smart GI's since just before Desert Storm.
Available at your nearest hunting, fishing, military supply, K-Mart and WalMart stores.
GARMIN GPS. "It beats walking around in circles."
-- Wildweasel (email@example.com), January 27, 1999.
GARMIN GPS= "Garmin Gypsy."
A very needful thing for wandering around in the swamps and bayous of Louisiana too. Just love the thing.
-- sweetolebob (La) (firstname.lastname@example.org), January 27, 1999.