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New Y2K Branch Adds Extra Layer of Protection

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 5, 1999 – The space in the Arlington, Va., office complex is mostly empty right now -- wired -- but still awaiting people, phones, computers and other equipment. By early September, the emptiness will be transformed into a hub of activity as DoD's Year 2000 Decision Support Activity comes on line.

The DSA is designed to serve as a focal point for monitoring defense infrastructures, such as telecommunications, power and transportation systems. It will also address any problems that may occur during the Y2K date transition, according to Jeff Gaynor, director of Year 2000 Operations in the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, where the DSA is located.

Once fully staffed with a core group of about 25 personnel, the activity will focus on three key areas.

First, the DSA will monitor DoD's cyber systems and physical infrastructures, Gaynor said. It will track reports of potential infrastructure problems and inform Defense Secretary William's Cohen's Executive Support Center, which is responsible for coordinating any further action needed. Gaynor said monitoring DoD's systems will help assessment efforts and ensure problems are addressed before they can adversely affect DoD operations.

Second, by monitoring global and national news sources, the DSA will track throughout the world where problems may be occurring. Gaynor said the information-gathering effort will help differentiate problems that routinely occur in some systems from those that may be caused by the Year 2000 date transition. He noted that such information will help DoD identify events that may or may not need the department's assistance.

"We [DoD], like any organization that uses and is dependent on modern information and infrastructure technologies, experience system problems," Gaynor said. "Our focus is on those problems that may have an impact on the department's operations. If we learn an area is experiencing power outages, that's good information. But if those outages can be managed by local or state authorities, that's better information." He noted refined information will help DoD more efficiently apply its resources.

Third, in order to ensure requests for DoD's assistance are accurately received and processed, the DSA will operate a small "Call Center." The center will receive requests for foreign or domestic assistance made by the Department of State or Federal Emergency Management Agency. The DSA will document the requests and forward them to the Executive Support Center. The center's personnel will coordinate the request with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff and the Army's director of military support. The center will then forward the results of its coordination to the department's leadership for approval.

Gaynor said that "there are some who view DoD's Y2K preparations as somehow ominous. But given the American military's history and DoD's national security responsibilities, it's simply our culture to be ready."

In contrast to some of the hype surrounding Y2K, Gaynor said that "the biggest problems we're likely to face are those created by the effects of overreaction to Y2K."

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