SENATE TESTIMONY: CIA Assesses Global Y2k Readiness (USIA, March 5, 1999) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

SENATE TESTIMONY: CIA Assesses Global Y2k Readiness (USIA, March 5, 1999)

Just posting the summary document. Its very similar to recent testimony at the House. Still sobering. -- Diane

USIS Washington File

05 March 1999


(Senate hearing focuses on international Y2K issues) (3670)

Washington -- All the world's nations will be affected by Y2K related failures to some extent, according to a review conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). A CIA officer presented the findings to the U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem March 5.

Lawrence Gershwin with the CIA's National Intelligence Council reported that global connections in telecommunications, financial systems, air transportation, manufacturing and trade assure an international impact when many computer systems are expected to encounter problems reading dates at the opening of the year 2000.

While Gershwin acknowledged some difficulty in making predictions about what's likely to happen, he said CIA research has identified those areas most likely to affect U.S. interests. They are: foreign nuclear reactors and power grids, military early warning systems, trade, oil and gas sectors, and worldwide shipping and air transport.

The CIA found the lowest level of Y2K preparedness in Eastern Europe, Russia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and several Asian countries, including China. In Western Europe, the intelligence agency found that modification of computer systems to accommodate conversion to a new currency has taken precedence over Y2K problems.

In Russia and Ukraine, Gershwin testified that humanitarian consequences could result if Y2K failures lead to power outages in the midst of harsh winter weather.

Gershwin also said the CIA is watching carefully the vulnerability of Soviet designed nuclear power plants throughout the nations of the former USSR, Central and Eastern Europe. This review also finds the potential for Y2K problems in Russia's Gazprom Natural Gas Pipeline network.

Military systems are also a matter of concern, but Gershwin was clear to allay some fears. "We do not see a problem in terms of Russian or Chinese missiles automatically being launched, or nuclear weapons going off, because of computer problems arising from Y2K failures. And our assessment remains that we currently do not see a danger of unauthorized or inadvertent launch of ballistic missiles from any country due to Y2K problems."

Following is the text of Gershwin's testimony:

-- Diane J. Squire (, March 06, 1999


Thanks, Diane, as usual your flying fingers have furnished fodder for my focus.

Gershwin's remarks:

"The Y2K situation continues to change, and our assessments will similarly evolve as more information becomes available, as countries become more aware of and deal with Y2K issues, and as incidents of Y2K failure increase." [Look closely here - ". . . as incidents of Y2K failure increase." The CIA admits that there have been failures already and they are fully expected to increase.]

"In many cases, foreign countries only recently have become aware of the problem and begun to examine their critical infrastructure systems for potential Y2K failures. In comparison, the United States has made a significant effort to identify and redress Y2K problems. . ." [I've noticed this kind of wording before. Look at it carefully. What it says is not that the US has made a significant effort, but rather that IN COMPARISON to other countries, the US has made a significant effort. Note too that the foreign countries Gershwin's using for comparison have only just started to look at the problem, they haven't actually done anything to remediate. Hence, if other countries have done nothing, then any tiny thing the US has done can be termed significant. I'm not saying the US has done very little in remediation, I'm saying THIS PARTICULAR statement needs to be carefully looked at. "Significant" doesn't mean all will be hunky dory.]

"The coincidence of widespread Y2K-related failures in the winter of 1999-2000 in Russia and Ukraine, with continuing economic problems, food shortages, and already difficult conditions for the population could have major humanitarian consequences for these countries." [In addition, it could have major political consequences--Russia and many other countries are not politically stable and could fall prey to more revolutions. The CIA will wish to prevent or ameliorate any instability and, thus, some resources could be diverted to countries important to the US--read oil, mainly.]

"Most countries have failed to address aggressively the issue of embedded processors. While recent understanding is that failures here will be less than previously estimated, it is nevertheless the case that failure to address this issue will still cause some highly dependent sectors with complex sensor and processing systems to have problems, centered right on the January 1 date." [So much for those who argued against problems on embedded chips threads. I believe Gershwin was referring to foreign countries only, but the US could be included here too.]

"The lowest level of Y2K preparedness is evident in Eastern Europe, Russia, Latin America, the Middle East, Africa, and several Asian countries, including China." [See the thread - Imports: What do we get from where?. There's info and a link to an extensive list of imports. Does anyone in the US make shoes any more???]

"Middle Eastern countries. . . . Most government, business, and military remediation efforts are however, in general, poorly coordinated." [Three things: oil, oil and oil.]

[Africa, other than South, pretty much toast.]

[Latin America, certainly crispy round the edges.]

[Western Europe - concentration on the euro has been at the edpense of Y2K remediation. More crispy edges.]

"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. China's problems are exacerbated by the fact that, by some estimates, over 90% of the software used in China is pirated, including most of the software used in government offices and state owned enterprises. This could make it very difficult to approach software vendors for technical fixes and coincidentally, limits China's legal recourse should their software suffer Y2K-related problems." [Oops! Nyah nyah. Shoes, clothes--see the list in Imports thread.]

"Russia. . . The $3 billion estimate last month from Alexander Krupnov, Chairman of the Russian Central Telecommunications Commission, is six times the original estimate. Frankly, we do not know how they arrived at this number." [Translation - Damn, the suckers just pulled it right out th'air!]

"DOE analysts have done a systematic analysis of the safety of foreign reactors, and some of the former Soviet models are the worst. . . . Documentation for plant equipment and software in use in Soviet-designed reactors is either poor or nonexistent. Many of the vendors who supplied this equipment or software have not been in business since the fall of the Soviet Union and are not available to help." [Three words - Chernobyl, Chernobyl, Chernobyl.] "While DOE has initiatives underway designed to assist the Russians in reducing the risk of Y2K-related reactor safety issues, the Russians have been slow to accept our help." [Not for long, don't worry. They'll come around. They're waiting on a free trip to the US, see below re generals.]

". . . Russia will lose virtually all of its natural gas and the information that we have on the storage capacity and drawdown capability of Eastern Europe and other states of the former Soviet Union suggests that those countries could experience severe shortages should Gazprom shut down. . . it is unclear whether [in-place contignency] measures are sufficient to deal with the scale of problems that could occur due to Y2K failures." {Don't go home to the old country thinking it will be safer.]

". . . we do not see a problem in terms of Russian or Chinese missiles automatically being launched, or nuclear weapons going off, because of computer problems arising from Y2K failures. And, our assessment remains that we currently do not see a danger of unauthorized or inadvertent launch of ballistic missiles from any country due to Y2K problems." [Some good news at last.]

"DOD has announced plans to establish a joint US-Russian Defense Y2K Coordination Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in order to share early attack warning information, thus preventing confusion should any Y2K-related false or ambiguous warnings occur." [Smart move. Those generals will go along with this because they'll have a cushy berth in CO.]

"Significant oil exporters to the United States and the global market include a number of countries that are lagging in their Y2K remediation efforts. . . . This places that industry at risk of Y2K-related problems which could result in a slowdown of extraction, refining and delivery." [Three words - oh, you know what they are.] "The oil sector is also highly dependent on ports, ocean shipping, and domestic infrastructures. Y2K specialists have noted that world ports and ocean shipping are among the sectors that have done the least to prepare for the Y2K problem." [Ditto. Plus anything manufactured with a label other than 'Made in USA.']

"Widespread failures in waterborne commerce carriers could also have significant impacts in the supply of food and commercial goods, resulting in possibly severe economic disruptions." [40% of seafood is now imported. Fast-food joints use lots of beef from S. America, transported on refrigerated ships. We know about pharmaceuticals. Etc.] "Malfunction of navigational equipment either aboard or external to the ship may also occur, resulting in either collisions or groundings, potentially resulting in environmental problems." [Oil and chemical spills.]

"Aviation . . . Problems within this sector include the existence of radar systems deemed "legacy systems" that run older software and thus may be vulnerable." [Plain enough. New equipment for international pilots--binoculars, megaphones, loud whistles.]

"Y2K problems in the telecommunications networks could negatively impact a broad range of other sectors that rely on the networks not only for communications but also for monitoring and load management. . . . Sectors that are heavily dependent on telecommunications include banking, defense, electric power, natural gas, water, transportation, and food distribution. In addition, a functioning telecom network is crucial in emergency situations." [I think we've covered this area well on a recent thread. Must remember to call Dad before midnight GMT New Year's Eve.]

"It is as yet unclear what effect non-remediated foreign banks will have on the international banking system when they attempt to interact with the rest of the world." [They have no clue, but don't sound very optimistic.]

"As our collection continues, and awareness of and reporting on Y2K problems abroad increases, our estimates of the type and extent of failures we are likely to see around the world will become more precise." [And I'll bet not too many of those estimates will be revised more positively than this report indicates.]

Old Git just went quietly to an 8. Maybe an 8.5 by tomorrow. Oh, it is tomorrow. Okay, by this afternoon.

-- Old Git (, March 06, 1999.

Diane, thank you for posting this sobering article. Certainly no mention of VCRs here.

-- Puddintame (, March 06, 1999.


After reading it and the State Dept. assessment I just had to shut down and sleep.

Is it after 2000 yet? Who's the guy who sleeps for a 100 years. My mind is blank. I wanna do that.

I'll come back to this later with comments. Need coffee & toothpicks now.

*Big Sigh*


See also ...

SENATE TESTIMONY: State Department Reviews World Y2K Readiness (USIA, March 5, 1999) 000Zja

-- Diane J. Squire (, March 06, 1999.

Burn-out! You meant Rip Van Winkle, I think. Me too, had to get out early today, Grand Opening of PetSmart and needed to load up on free samples, cash in a special opening coupon for $5 off! After ingesting all the CIA and State Dept info, I thought I'd better get more cat food. Nap time soon.

-- Tired Old Git (, March 06, 1999.

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