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Don't Hoard, You'll be Able to Buy Groceries in 2000

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 17, 1999 – "We'll keep selling groceries, no matter what the year 2000 brings," a Defense Commissary Agency spokesman said.

Herb Greene of the agency public affairs office said the defense grocer is working on fixing the so-called Year 2000 computer bug at all 294 commissaries worldwide. "We don't expect major problems," he said. "There may be a few embedded microchips we miss that won't allow us to open a time lock, for example, but we believe we've caught most of the problems."

The Year 2000 problem, nicknamed "Y2K" and "millennium bug," refers to a past computer industry practice of writing years with just two digits -- 1999 would be "99." Because of this digital shorthand, on Jan. 1, 2000, some computer systems and equipment that use microchips might read "00" as "1900." This error could generate more inaccurate data and even cause systems to shut down. Computer systems that won't handle the year change correctly must be fixed or replaced. Systems that will work correctly are called "Y2K-compliant."

The commissary agency has been working on Y2K fixes since it became aware of the potential problem several years ago, Greene said.

Agency specialists identified mission-critical systems early and will have them all Y2K-compliant by October, said Stanton H. Ferguson Jr., the DeCA Year 2000 program manager. Mission- critical systems are those that allow the agency to sell groceries, to restock and to pay vendors, he said. DeCA has completed testing of the integrated scanning system to ensure it will work after Jan. 1, 2000, officials said.

The agency has also worked with credit card and debit card providers to ensure these services will continue to be available to the 11 million customers worldwide.

The agency has also considered that others may not be as far along in stomping out the millennium bug. "Contingency plans have been developed to provide detailed procedures for unanticipated Y2K disruptions and to provide for continuity of operations should the unexpected occur," Ferguson said. "Uninterrupted power sources in the stores provide backup electricity. [This will] ensure registers and electronic payment systems continue to operate."

Agency employees are checking into all other areas of the stores to ensure everything is Y2K-compliant. This includes fire and security alarms, refrigeration monitoring systems and telephone systems. Officials are fixing or replacing systems as needed.

DeCA works with thousands of vendors worldwide. Officials are also working with suppliers to ensure the interface between the agency and the vendors continues to operate in 2000.

Bottom line, said officials, is that service members do not need to run out and stockpile groceries. "We've worked through hurricanes, floods and all sorts of natural disasters," Greene said. "Our people are committed to getting groceries to military people. We'll continue to do so."

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DefenseLINK Confronting Y2K

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