U.S. considers Y2K plans for Americans overseas

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03/05 14:30 U.S. considers Y2K plans for Americans overseas

By Adam Entous

WASHINGTON, March 5 (Reuters) - The State Department told lawmakers on Friday it may issue travel warnings and draw up evacuation plans for Americans living abroad should the year 2000 computer bug cause widespread problems.

State Department officials told the Senate's special committee on the so-called millennium bug contingency plans may be needed to safeguard Americans abroad because many other countries were nowhere near ready for the change to the year 2000, and computer glitches could cause trouble for computers running power, transportation and telephone systems.

An official with the Central Intelligence Agency also warned the committee some Soviet-designed nuclear power plants were vulnerable to computer crashes and the Russian gas monopoly Gazprom could experience Y2K outages that could cut off supplies to former Soviet Republics mid-winter.

The millennium problem arises because many older computers record dates using only the last two digits of the year. If left uncorrected, such systems could treat the year 2000 as the year 1900, generating errors or system crashes next Jan. 1.

In its report on the computer problem, the Senate committee said Y2K computer glitches could set off civil unrest in poor countries, and undermine economic growth in Asia, Latin America and Africa.

The Y2K responses of many governments around the world were "inadequate, belated, and uneven," said Bonnie Cohen, the State Department's under secretary for management.

Jacquelyn Williams-Bridgers, inspector general at the State Department, said telephone systems in Russia could fail, and Ukraine's power grid was particularly fragile.

She said ship traffic through the Panama and Suez Canals could be disrupted next Jan. 1, but said the State Department and other U.S. agencies were still evaluating these and other risks.

"Based on these analyses the (State) Department will determine whether it needs to issue travel warnings concerning particular countries or develop drawdown or evacuation plans for areas where the Y2K problem may pose a risk to Americans living abroad," Williams-Bridgers said.

CIA national intelligence officer Lawrence Gershwin told the committee Soviet-designed nuclear power plants in Russia, and Central and Eastern Europe were vulnerable.

Gazprom's natural gas pipeline network could be forced to shut down because of computer problems, he said.

"We believe that Western Europe can survive a Gazprom shutdown for over 30 days," he said. "Of greater concern are Eastern Europe, Russia itself, and the other states of the former Soviet Union should Russia's ability to transport and export natural gas be interrupted in mid-winter."

China may also experience major disruptions, made worse because many government computer systems rely on pirated software, Gershwin told the committee.

"China's late start in addressing Y2K issues suggests Beijing will solve some, but not many of its Y2K problems in the limited time remaining, and will probably experience failures in key sectors," he said.

Gershwin said missile systems in Russia and China could also experience Y2K problems, but he saw no danger nuclear weapons would go off because of computer crashes. To reduce the risk of an accidental missile launch next Jan. 1, the State Department said the United States wanted to bring together U.S. and Russian military experts to witness the millennium change from monitoring stations within the United States.



-- Ray (ray@totacc.com), March 05, 1999



Thanks for the article. It's already posted with some comment at this thread:


-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), March 05, 1999.


I was wrong. A *similar* article has already been posted. The one posted on this thread has some extra details.

-- Kevin (mixesmusic@worldnet.att.net), March 05, 1999.

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