Y2K Arrives in Pacific Without Incident
By Linda D. Kozaryn
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON (Dec. 31), Dec. 31, 1999 So far, so good. That's the message U.S. Pacific Command sent the National Military Command Center here as Y2K arrived in Australia, New Zealand, Thailand, Japan and Korea.
As the clock struck midnight in Sydney, Bangkok, and Jakarta, Indonesia, and elsewhere, TV networks broadcast the global celebrations. Spectacular fireworks displays lit the night skies -- and that was it. Nothing happened. The power stayed on. The phones still worked. In this case, no news was most definitely good news, as Pentagon officials were glad to announce.
"To date, no Department of Defense installations have indicated any disruptions either in their own systems or in the host nations systems that are being provided to them," Rear Adm. Robert F. Willard reported at 2 p.m. at the Pentagon, Dec. 31.
U.S. and international efforts to prepare for Y2K were working, said Willard, head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Y2K Task Force. "A lot of people's efforts went into making this a non-event," he noted.
Military officials fired up systems across the services that would not normally be operated over the weekend, he said. "There have been a goodly number of systems checked out over the past hours to ensure that they operate and, were a virus present our operators would know that."
Willard, accompanied by Dr. Marvin Langston, deputy assistant defense secretary for Y2K and Peter Verga, deputy undersecretary for Policy Support, briefed media on the military's initial reports. The admiral promised to brief again later in the day as the rollover occurred next at U.S. Central and European Commands and across the United States.
Kwajalein Army Air Station, located on an atoll in the Pacific, was the first American military facility to experience Y2K, Willard said. Kwajalein reported, "no problem," at 7:17 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, he said. Guam checked in next at 9:00 a.m.
U.S. Space Command officials and Russian military officials monitoring ballistic missile launches and other Y2K issues at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., also had nothing to report, Willard added. Responding to queries, Willard said U.S. officials had detected no military activity in Russia resulting from President Boris Yeltsin's resignation.
U.S. and Republic of Korea forces reported no problems, he said, "and we have not heard of any particularly adverse conditions in the North. The North is somewhat less dependent on technology than the South, so perhaps that's not a particular surprise."
A Y2K augmentation cell of six to 10 officers supplements the National Command Center staff on a 24-hour basis to monitor the transition to the new century. The cell will continue to be on watch through next week. "It's been an unprecedented look at the world for us," Willard said.
"The services, through their command centers, are monitoring all of their forces, both deployed and non-deployed, as well as their bases around the world," the admiral noted. To date, there have been no incidents related to Y2K, he said.
Commands may encounter viruses or evidence of hackers locally during the rollover, Willard added. "The watchword is 'caution.' Military officials are carefully observing the situation to determine if any of the information operations issues occur. "At midnight tonight, we'll be extra vigilant."
Pentagon officials found the preliminary reports encouraging, Willard said, but he cautioned that it was still too soon to conclude Y2K would have no impact. "Year 2000 in our experience, does not always manifest itself within the first minutes or hours following a rollover event," Willard cautioned.
"It could be hours or days, or weeks from now ," he said. "We'll be diligent over not only this weekend, but the coming weeks as well, in attempting to determine whether we are seeing problems develop."
Y2K problems may still occur, Willard repeat, citing a news story that he saw on the Internet that was incorrectly dated 1900 instead of 2000.
"The issues are out there," he said. "But from the standpoint of our mission critical and our non-mission critical systems, that we're using for our warfighting forces today, we have seen none. And that's good, though we'll be able to answer that with a great deal more confidence next week."
Media coverage of the Y2K bugs has not been overblown, Willard stressed. "We believe very strongly that the year 2000 is a tremendous technological risk and that the remediation efforts thus far, not only national, but international, were absolutely necessary," he said.
DoD spent $3.6 billion to make the military's more than 2000 computer systems Y2K compliant, Willard noted. "We have focused on microprocessors for years, literally, attempting to remediate our systems that were at risk," he said. Based on the early reports, he said, "Our confidence in our remediation process should be pretty high right now."
In preparing for Y2K, the military's focus ranged from power and telecommunications systems to sewer and water supplies. Contingency plans were developed to augment host nation support, if necessary. At some overseas locations, he said, installation commanders spent a great deal of time working on continuity of operations plans to work around potential host nation failures.
Overall, Willard said, the Y2K preparations have produced "residual benefits," Willard noted. "I think we know ourselves technologically better than we ever have before," he said. "
Willard also announced the birth of DoD's first 21st century baby at a naval hospital at Marine Corps base Camp Butler, Okinawa. Baby Lauren, born at 12:14 a.m., local time, to Airman 1st Class Lisa Matthews and Senior Airman Joshua Matthews was 21 inches long, and weighed seven pounds 12 ounces. "It is a joint baby," Willard told the Pentagon press corps.