The Government's Y2K War Room : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Government to test Y2K defenses

9-9-99 gives center a chance to check responses on computer glitches


By Jim Landers / The Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON - White House officials are preparing a millennium war room to monitor possible disasters from around the country and the world stemming from the year 2000 computer glitch.

The $40 million Information Coordination Center will get started this week with limited tests built around possible computer malfunctions associated with the date 9-9-99 - Thursday, Sept. 9, 1999.

Few computer problems are expected, but officials at the center and at ancillary emergency data centers elsewhere in Washington plan to use the date for a millennium trial run.

The federal government is mobilizing what could be the largest peacetime emergency response effort in U.S. history to deal with the main event - Jan. 1, 2000.

From the moment the New Year begins at midnight in New Zealand (6 a.m. Friday, Dec. 31 in Dallas), a rolling wave of information will head toward the Information Coordination Center, on two floors of an old Secret Service office 1 1/2 blocks from the White House.

John Koskinen, President Clinton's Y2K czar, says the center will feed information to the president and two senior multiple agency working groups - one for domestic crises, and one for international problems.

"The critical infrastructure industries and the federal agencies have readied themselves for the Y2K problem," Mr. Koskinen said. "It's not at this point an emergency response mobilization, because we're not out dealing with emergencies. It will be the largest event-monitoring effort in the history of the federal government."

State of readiness

The Information Coordination Center will have a staff of about 40 crisis management specialists led by retired Lt. Gen. Peter Kind, former director of the Army's information systems network.

The Y2K information center has its own electric generator and will be stocked with provisions for the New Year's weekend. If the center loses its communications links or otherwise goes down, responsibility will be transferred to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, or FEMA.

After further tests in October and November, the center will become fully operational Thursday, Dec. 30. It will remain in business until March, or after the leap year date of Feb. 29, 2000, to ensure federal readiness if other computer problems occur, Mr. Koskinen said.

FEMA normally handles the government's response to disasters such as hurricanes, tornadoes and floods.

But FEMA is subordinate in the Y2K response plan. Its responsibility will be to get status reports from state, municipal and tribal governments across the country to feed into the Y2K war room.

Industry emergency centers for electric power, oil and gas are being established in Washington, and more than a dozen other industry associations will set up emergency centers.

Federal emergency centers with the departments of energy, health and human services, justice and transportation will take reports about critical parts of the nation's infrastructure and feed them to the Y2K war room.

The FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center and the federally sponsored Computer Emergency Response Team at Carnegie-Mellon University in Pittsburgh will file reports on any cyber attacks mounted by hackers or terrorists.

Crisis managers

The Y2K war room will be at the apex of a pyramid of hundreds of crisis managers from every state, city and town in the country. Rather than having every mayor or emergency coordinator phoning the Y2K war room to learn what's going on, information will move to ever-smaller groups of managers until it reaches the Information Coordination Center.

The State Department will collect reports from U.S. embassies across the globe, and the Defense Department will gather data from all its military posts overseas and at home.

"When you think about this, you're thinking about status reports from around the world and around the country arriving more or less all at once, so the art form from the start is to make sure you don't get swamped with information," Mr. Koskinen said.

Because the international dateline runs through the Pacific Ocean, the coordination center will be able to sift information about the impact of computers rolling over to the year 2000 for 17 hours before it reaches Washington.

Countries such as New Zealand and Britain plan to provide direct reports to the U.S. center.

Meanwhile, year 2000 coordinators in 195 countries expect to file reports of any computer failures with the U.N. International Y2K Cooperation Center, in Washington just two blocks from the U.S. Y2K war room.

The international center also will test its systems this week to see how well the format chosen for national responses works. Since 9-9-99 will reach New Zealand first, the center will begin its tests in Washington on Wednesday morning.

"It's just a trial run to try to see if the connections work and what not," said Bruce McConnell, director of the international center. "Hopefully about 20 countries will enter data and tell us how things are going. . . . I don't expect much of anything to happen."

Older software

The 9-9-99 problem involves some older software programs written so that a string of 9s triggers a "collate data" or "start over" command. Federal and private computer specialists minimize the likelihood of computer failures due to the 9-9-99 date; in most applications, the date will be entered as 090999 rather than 9999.

But the date presents both government and industry with a chance to test contingency plans for the calendar change to the year 2000 itself.

Nearly all computer applications written before the mid-1990s used just two digits to represent the year. Unless they are repaired or replaced, those applications will base their calculations of the new year - 00 - as though it were 1900 rather than 2000.

All sorts of computer errors could flow from such miscalculations, including system failures. Governments and companies have spent billions of dollars correcting the problem, and many now say the biggest risk may be public fear rather than computer meltdown.

Mr. Koskinen said he intends to show his confidence in Y2K repairs by flying to New York on New Year's Eve. The Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control system operates on Universal or Greenwich Mean Time. That will enable Mr. Koskinen to catch a 6:30 p.m. flight in Washington, be in the air when the air traffic control date rollover occurs at 7 p.m. and still have time to fly back from New York before midnight to be on hand in the Y2K war room.

He may have some high-ranking company.

"I am confident we will be in very close contact with the president and the vice president, particularly the vice president, during this period," he said.

Vice President Al Gore has closely followed the efforts to prepare for Y2K, Mr. Koskinen said. "I would not be surprised if he was with us at the center and the White House as this goes on." Cabinet secretaries and their deputies will also be close at hand to stay in touch with their department emergency centers, Mr. Koskinen said.

With the information it collects, the Y2K war room staff will be able to alert others of problems as they occur in other parts of the world. It will be able to initiate emergency response efforts, if needed - "blankets, traffic control, evacuating people from an area," Mr. Koskinen said.

But federal officials will not be charged with fixing computer failures or restoring power, water or other vital services if any fail.

Pentagon officials have said they would need legislation granting them liability protection before they could tackle such jobs.

Fear factor

In addition to providing warning and response, the center's other major function will be public information.

Leon Kappelman, a Y2K specialist who is an associate professor of business computer information systems at the University of North Texas, said the government is going overboard on the fear factor.

"Their bias is to make preventing panic the most important thing," he said. "I sure hope the media's not going to take the day off and rely only on that information center, because that information is going to be severely filtered. Every stop it makes, the story changes a little bit, and the bias of the system will be to report happy things."

Mr. Koskinen disputed that judgment, saying crisis management specialists are trained to get critical information to the top as soon as possible.

"I love Leon, but I think he's dead wrong about this," Mr. Koskinen said. "People who need assistance will be very clear about it. If it's a functional problem, first, it's going to be very visible. And to the extent people need help, they're not going to be hiding it."

-- Gayla (, September 07, 1999


"Vice President Al Gore has closely followed the efforts to prepare for Y2K, Mr. Koskinen said. "I would not be surprised if he was with us at the center and the White House as this goes on." Cabinet secretaries and their deputies will also be close at hand to stay in touch with their department emergency centers, Mr. Koskinen said."

At least we know where our *leaders* will be! Safe in a bunker with a generator, plenty of food and water.

-- (hmmm@hmmm.hmmm), September 08, 1999.

The federal government is mobilizing what could be the largest peacetime emergency response effort in U.S. history to deal with the main event - Jan. 1, 2000.

And all this... for a populace they are encouraging to prepare for a 3 to 7 day winter storm.

Vice President Al Gore has closely followed the efforts to prepare for Y2K, Mr. Koskinen said.

Thats newz. Whod a thunk it?

Lets see... I would say they are taking this seriously. Why dont they encourage the rest of us to do the same?

Sadly... we know that answer.


-- Diane J. Squire (, September 08, 1999.

for the same reason a policeman wears a sidearm when arresting someone who broke the speed limit, Diane....

it's part of the job description

seems like your crystals should tell you that


"Why does a telephone psychic have to ask you your name?" -- Steven Wright

-- Chicken Little (, September 08, 1999.

ALGORE couldn't follow his own nose! Three day storm?

-- FLAME AWAY (, September 08, 1999.

Vice President Al Gore has closely followed the efforts to prepare for Y2K, Mr. Koskinen said.

Gee, I feel safer already.

-- Sandmann (, September 08, 1999.


This quote really got to me: "It will be the largest event-monitering event in the history of the federal government."??????

As I said in an earlier thread, this is slightly "overkill" (no pun intended) for a 72 hour problem.

They have a generator!!! food!!!! I'm sorry folks, but to me this is the most outrageous breach of trust our government has EVER tried to pull over on the public. Get your food, get your supplies, and pray.

Who's panicking "whom"???? $40 million dollar Center that seems to be preparing for a war? Does that "panic" anyone????

Give me a break.... "I did not sleep with that woman" --Maybe he was talking about Hillary...

(sorry, but I'm getting really, really, really tired of all the doublespeak stuff.

-- LindaO (, September 08, 1999.

I know Linda. I find this article quite revealing too. Thanks Gayla... it's a keeper... and a printer outer.


-- Diane J. Squire (, September 08, 1999.

Thanks Gayla.

I find it interesting that Koskinen tried to negate what Leon said regarding the bias: "make preventing panic the most important thing". It was, after all, Koskinen himslef who said "Percpetion management is Job #1". Seems to me like he is negating himself. LOL. Doesn't exactly instill confidence now does it.

-- Rob Michaels (, September 08, 1999.

I have printed this out for my Y2k meeting tonight. We have about 50 in attendance from all over the county. Some have a hard time believing the government is lying. This will help them. Thanks.

-- BB (, September 09, 1999.

Chick-a-boom, chick-a-boom, don'tcha just love it...Y2K defenses chick-a-boom, chick-a-boom-boom-boom,.....(to hijack the words of a now old song....)

The unclimbable wall....Y2K....not even wishful thinking will help.

--She in the sheet upon the hill.

-- Donna (, September 09, 1999.

You criticize the gov for not taking action; you criticize the gov for taking action. Make up your mind (intentionally singular), guys. Be productive here, name some other contingency plans the gov could put into place.

-- Maria (, September 10, 1999.

Maria, I think you miss the point. I have nothing against the government having contingency plans. I think it's great. But what about the people? It's obvious the government is planning for more than a "3 day storm," so why not have the people prepare for more as well?

-- Gayla (, September 10, 1999.

Hey, Y2K is the guttermint's "solution" to the impending Social Security crisis. Cull the entitlements.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, September 10, 1999.

Chicken Little said the government has the warroom "for the same reason a policeman wears a sidearm when arresting someone who broke the speed limit, Diane...."

And we all know cops NEVER get injured or killed when they stop a car for speeding, don't we?

-- Old Git (, September 10, 1999.


I dont fault the government, et. al., for preparing.

I fault them for not being truthful about the extent of the potential global problems, and the resultant domestic impact, that they are clearly preparing for... WITHOUT preparing the rest of us, at the local levels. (And Im not talking about just the Emergency Management folks, either).

I fault them, especially Koskinen, for their continuing P.R. spin, resulting in community and individual complacency and inaction.

I fault them for making the determination that the system was more important, than the individual people within the system.

What IS being prepared for is NOT a three-day storm. I fault them for pretending, to us all, that it is, especially when they KNOW... its not.

And lest you say prove it, then Ill simply respond with... follow all the news sources for statements made by Koskinen himself, plus all the more obscure places like USIA, or, or the senate testimony.

You'll quickly see, he wears two faces, and many shaded hats.


-- Diane J. Squire (, September 10, 1999.

Diane, I think that about covers it. Is it true you have a picture of Kosky on your wall at home?

-- BB (, September 10, 1999.

You mean the one on the dart board next to my steel-toed hiking boots?



-- Diane J. Squire (, September 10, 1999.

I have this image of Mr. Koskinen (looking very much like Peter Cushing) saying:

"Lord Vader will provide us with the location of the Rebel fortress by the time this station is operational. We will then crush the rebellion with one swift stroke."

All you folks on "Alderaan", get the heck off that planet, OK?

-- Mac (sneak@lurk.hid), September 10, 1999.

LOL Yeah that one

-- BB (..@...), September 10, 1999.

Diane, I believe that you are steadfast in your convictions. You give the impression of being a true tree hugger and thats great for you. But we see things differently. Government providing for the individual makes for a very large welfare state, one which I oppose vehemently. (Ive concluded that by your statement I fault them for making the determination that the system was more important, than the individual people within the system).

We all spin, Diane. We all read words, interpret them based on our technical knowledge, translate into our own terms, and form our spin. The gov doesnt know what will happen any more than you or I. (Your statement, I fault them for not being truthful about the extent of the potential global problems, and the resultant domestic impact is false.) Youve translate everything put out from the gov as lies. Thats your interpretation, not mine. The gov plans for contingencies, always has and always will. I wrote contingency plans back in 1990 for some govs computer systems.

You can not conclude from these plans that the gov expects the worst to happen, just as I didnt expect the worst to happen with the security system. But what if scenarios could happen and its best to have a fall back position, hence the term contingency. They are not doing this because they know it will be a 10 on the Richter scale. But quite the contrary, theyre doing this because they dont know what will happen.

*sigh* Get the picture?

-- Maria (, September 10, 1999.

Maria said, "Theyre doing this because they dont know what will happen."

That is EXACTLY right! According to the article, "It will remain in business until March, or after the leap year date of Feb. 29, 2000." I think that makes a lot of sense.

So, the government has a contingency plan for 60 days, why not the people?

-- Gayla (, September 10, 1999.

From: Tom Atlee Subject: Koskinen comes out and says it Date: Friday, July 30, 1999 11:05 PM

The bottom line... the problem... the opportunity... the fear that has transformation written all over it... the cat that's now out of the bag:

`If we get a couple hundred million Americans doing anything differently, we're going to create economic problems.''

-- John Koskinen in an interview with Associated Press GOV'T. Y2K EXPERT PREDICTS FAILURES By Ted Bridis (AP) AP-NY-07-29-99 1651EDT

The lesson, of course, is obvious: Don't anyone do anything differently.

-- yeah (, September 11, 1999.

Yeah Maria,

I *like* trees and what they do for this planet, and how they enhance our lives, for the better. (So, you dont? Odd.)

But having decided that about me, and acknowledged Im... steadfast in my convictions... why on earth would you make the farcical leap to imply Id support a large welfare state because I like trees? Sorta like implying Y2K will be fine because there were not many obvious 9/9/99 problems... that well ever hear about. Fuzzy logic, Maria.

Less government, and fewer politicians, and a more self-reliant, community-oriented population would be just fine by me. You want more gov? Mummm. You need a camping vacation... out in a national forest... soon.

As for the D.C. spin-cycle many DO see... well... on the issue of Y2K... yes, I NOW suspect most of what the government floats on the topic as... white lies tending to several shades of grey. Didnt start out that way, almost a year ago when I began studying the topic. But now, there have been too many dot gov, dot com and dot mil conflicting reports, testimonies, memos, speeches, meeting minutes, etc., that convinced me otherwise. I do not find Koskinens pabulum convincing. Especially when he tells the international community something different about U.S. anticipated problems, than hes willing to admit to for a domestic audience.

Yes, the government has always planned for contingencies, as does virtually everyone else. Heck Maria, I used to DO strategic planning for a business, and have written several 3-to-5 year plans myself. So, like you, Im well-trained to see over the horizon-line a tad.

Getting ready for possible Y2K repercussions... on a GLOBAL scale... just isnt planning as usual. If you think it is, well, perhaps well simply agree to disagree.

I most object to our government *misleading* its citizens on the potential severity, which has resulted in an apathy and complacency that may well COST... rather than SAVE lives. Sorry if that notion offends you Maria, but Ill remain consistent in placing peoples lives above the welfare of inanimate machines... anytime... anywhere. Count on it!

I dont expect the worst to happen... an NEVER have, as you well know. To imply I do or even did, is misleading, Maria. My best strategic planners guess, at this point in time, is come 1/1/2000 well see *some* showstoppers domestically, in unknown locations, and a lot worse overseas. But, the biggest problems will get played out over the first three months of 2000, as we begin an economic slide towards possible global depression. Wont even go into the details, cause I know youre not *really* interested.

Clearly, we both get different pictures, Maria. To each their own conclusions, and resulting contingencies.


-- Diane J. Squire (, September 11, 1999.

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