U.S. showcases $50 million Y2K Center

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Monday November 15, 7:17 pm Eastern Time

U.S. showcases $50 million Y2K Center

By Jim Wolf

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) - The White House formally presented on Monday a $50 million operations center designed to sort out information on potential multiple crises during the Year 2000 calendar rollover.

The Y2K Information Coordination Center (ICC) -- in old Secret Service premises two blocks from the White House -- will help U.S. decision-makers sift through possible simultaneous problems at home and abroad that may require U.S. action, officials told an open house for reporters.

``We continue to be very confident that the basic infrastructure in this country will function effectively'' as computer clocks tick over to 2000 in 46 days, said John Koskinen, President Bill Clinton's top Y2K adviser.

``But on the other hand, it's our obligation to be prepared, to ensure that we know on an up-to-date basis what's happening,'' he said. ``And if there is an appropriate federal response, that you can do it efficiently and effectively.''


Jokingly dubbed the ``Y2K bunker'' by congressional staff members, the facility will gather, analyze and summarize a stream of updates from the government and the private sector on system performance across the country and around the world.

The resulting Y2K status reports will be sent to federal decision-makers and to the public as updates on the www.y2k.gov Web site. The ICC, run by the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, is not a policy-making entity.

Koskinen and others, including industry representatives, will brief reporters every few hours starting early on Dec. 31 from the state-of-the-art center.

``We will not be competing with the media who are out reporting live in real time whatever's going on,'' he said. Rather, the center will seek to filter out the ``normal background noise,'' meaning the system failures that have nothing to do with Y2K.

On Wednesday, Clinton said he expected ``no major national breakdowns'' to be caused by Y2K, but voiced concerns about the readiness of some developing countries that he did not identify.

The ICC will kick into high gear early on Friday, Dec. 31, when New Zealand and Australia become the first major industrialized countries to enter the new year.

Round-the-clock operations would continue into the first few days of January, ``or longer if conditions warrant,'' a fact sheet said.

The ICC will wind down in March after keeping tabs on automated systems through Feb. 29, a Leap Year day that could also trip unprepared computers.

The government-industry cooperation pioneered by the ICC -- as well as its quarters -- may be put to use again to help protect critical U.S. systems from physical and cyber threats, Koskinen said.

The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office -- a Commerce Department arm set up in May 1998 under a presidential directive -- had already taken up space in the building housing the ICC, he said in reply to a question.

From a core staff of about 30, the ICC operation will swell to about 200 people over the New Year's weekend, most of them on loan from federal agencies.

Of the $50 million authorized for setting up the center, about $10 million to $15 million went for commercially available hardware, including 50-inch (127-cm) flat-panel ``plasma'' screens dotting the operations center. Earlier, congressional staff put the cost of the center at about $40 million.


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), November 16, 1999



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Monday November 15 4:43 PM ET

Gov't Opens $50M Y2K Crisis Center

By TED BRIDIS Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) - The government offered the first public glimpse Monday of its new $50 million Y2K nerve center, a highly computerized crisis room near the White House designed to track failures worldwide caused by the Year 2000 technology problem.

President Clinton's top Y2K adviser, John Koskinen, said the administration continues to believe there will be no major national problems, but said its Information Coordination Center will watch for ``some glitches'' anticipated during the New Year's date rollover.

``We hope that night will be really boring,'' said Koskinen, standing before a glass-empaneled room filled with high-end computers and digital maps showing global time zones. He called it ``the one place in the world with the most complete information.''

The government Monday also began cautioning against panic as people discover problems during the New Year's weekend, since some non-Y2K computer failures might simply coincide with the date rollover.

``We'll have failures from time to time whether you have a century date change or not,'' said Skip Patterson, who runs the Year 2000 program for Bell Atlantic Corp (NYSE:BEL - news). Experts have previously warned of widespread phone outages if everyone tried to make a call around midnight - what Koskinen described as ``Mother's Day by multiples.''

Nationwide almost every day, for example, some Internet sites crash, electricity temporarily fails or airline flights are delayed. In the earliest hours of Jan. 1, no one may know whether problems were caused by the Y2K bug or something else.

``The presumption is to blame all failures on Y2K that weekend,'' Koskinen said.

About 10 percent of all credit transactions fail routinely because, for example, equipment breaks down or because consumers are overextended or forget their ATM password, said Paul Schmelzer, an executive vice president for Orlando, Fla.-based Star Systems Inc., which process about 2 billion financial transactions annually.

He expects those same problems to show up Jan. 1.

``What consumers need to do if they go to an ATM on New Year's Day and find for whatever reason they can't get service, they should do what they do today - go find a machine down the block or get cash back in the grocery store,'' Schmelzer said. ``Let's don't immediately assume we've got some serious Y2K problems.''

The government's Y2K crisis center is hardly a bunker - it's on the 10th floor of a downtown building just blocks from the White House - but it includes backup communications systems and entrance guards.

Reports of any problems - rated ``minor'' or ``significant'' - will be shared with the White House and top government officials who will decide what to do. Information overseas will be fed by the State and Defense departments and industry groups, starting at roughly 6 a.m. EST Dec. 31, when midnight falls worldwide first in New Zealand.

A flurry of activity is expected as midnight arrives across U.S. time zones, with more attention starting mid-day EST Jan. 2 as employees worldwide begin returning to their offices - and turning on their computers - for the first time since the date change.

Koskinen predicted that any hacker attacks could be more easily detected during the date rollover because computers will be so closely monitored.

A hacker calling himself ``Comdext0r'' vandalized a Web site at the Commerce Department late Sunday, warning people to ``run for your lives!'' and to ``hit your computer's power button and never, ever turn it on again'' because of the Y2K bug.

A spokesman for the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, the government agency that handles high-tech policies, said its Internet site was altered about 9 p.m. Sunday but repaired about one hour later.

Koskinen noted that recreational hackers typically vandalize Web sites to demonstrate some vulnerability that a computer administrator failed to fix. He said he was hopeful hackers wouldn't try such demonstrations during the weekend date change.

``We think they will understand this is not the best time to do that,'' Koskinen said. 


-- Linkmeister (link@librarian.edu), November 16, 1999.

Uhmmmmm... I'd like an itemized statement of that $50m please...Oh, I understand,you can't tell me anything for 'security' reasons. .Of course

-- citizen (lost@sea.com), November 16, 1999.

This really grips me...Our government spending $50 mill. on a nonevent, and they don't have the guts to tell the people to do the same... of course they don't expect any problems, but it is ok for them to spend $50 mill of our money to "Be perpaired just in case" $50mill for three days of possible problems. Come on. Where is the logic here. Do they think we are so stupid we can't see what's happening....Venting in Texas.

-- marli (can'tget@it.duh), November 16, 1999.


They spent $25million on Clintons inaugaural ball! and that was for one evening. So $50million on a three day snow storm sounds about right!! lol

-- d.b. (dciinc@aol.com), November 16, 1999.

Now, that turly was a waste...LOL I would really like to know what the Pollies think about this, do they still need more proof? I suppose they will look at it as just another government misapproation of tax dollars. Sure ok, that explains it. They will say that the government is, ok misguided on this one thing. Sounds good to me, yeah that's it..Misguided (not)

-- Marli (can'tget@it.duh), November 16, 1999.

Marli, I predict that the pollies will simply say that it is "prudent" for the Government to do this, but foolish for private citizens to take any precautions beyond the 3-day snowstorm/hurricane/thingy. The same thing happened when chemical plants announced they were planning to shutdown for the rollover, the pollies declared it to be "prudent".

Now, you would THINK that the pollies would be very vocal to their representatives about THEIR tax money being wasted for such things as this Y2K Crisis Center, since they assure us that Y2K is going to be a bump in the road. But no, you will hear nary a peep from the pollies about this. However, when it comes to how YOU want to spend YOUR money for YOUR family's care and well being for what might happen with Y2K, that is when the pollies get very upset and very vocal.

Go figure.

-- King of Spain (madrid@aol.cum), November 16, 1999.

"...50-inch (127-cm) flat-panel 'plasma' screens..."

What an unbelieveable extravagence. Disgraceful.

-- PNG (png@gol.com), November 16, 1999.

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