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New Y2K Web Site Details Progress Against Millennium Bug

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 1999 – If you've been wondering how the Y2K computer problem may affect your life and work in the military, but you can't find the answers in the technical jargon dominating most Web sites, then your search is over.

The American Forces Information Service unveiled a new Web site June 4 called "Confronting Y2K." The site is accessible from the front page of DefenseLINK, or directly.

"In the wide world of Y2K Web sites, this is the only site aimed directly at educating military service members," said Army Col. John Kehoe, director of information operations for AFIS. "It's written in plain language, is graphically appealing, and most importantly, it covers the key areas service members are concerned about."

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 using microchips might read "00" as "1900." This error could generate more inaccurate data and even cause systems to shut down.

Kehoe said the Web site is the result of months of intensive research and compiling detailed information on an array of issues both within and outside DoD. He said much of the site information will also be valuable to defense civilian employees and military retirees.

"We wanted to make sure that no area was left untouched -- that all members of the DoD family know what is being done to protect them from the Y2K bug both on the job and in their homes. We believe this new site fills a gap that's been out there for a long time," Kehoe said. "Up till now there has been plenty of information for those who are responding to the technical challenges of Y2K, but not nearly enough for the average military person who needs to know how to prepare for Y2K."

Characterizing "Confronting Y2K" as "informative and entertaining," Kehoe explained that the site is divided into three major categories called "You," "Your Mission" and "The Homefront."

The "You" category includes sections on pay and medical care, as well as a broad section called "Life in DoD." Within this section, one can find out what DoD is doing to make sure that Y2K does not disrupt computer systems that make it possible for service members to shop in exchanges and commissaries, move household goods and educate their children. Kehoe emphasized that the section also includes information on what service members should do to help protect themselves from potential Y2K glitches.

"Your Mission" provides information on what DoD is doing to ensure Y2K does not disrupt critical installation services such as water and power. It also provides the status of mission systems and provides an overview of the possible role the military will have in supporting civilian communities if major Y2K problems occur.

"The Homefront" contains an interactive graphic that takes the viewer to information about how Y2K could affect families across the United States. Major areas covered include transportation, power supplies, telecommunications, banking and finance, and home electronics.

"I think everyone, children included, will like this section," Kehoe said. "Not only is it filled with practical tips on what to do, the interactive graphic depicting a community makes it fun to use. It answers such questions as, 'Will I be able to travel?' 'Will my computer and home entertainment systems be affected?' and 'Should I stock up on specific items?'

Other sections of "Confronting Y2K" explain how Y2K came to be such a problem and what is being done internationally. For those who want to explore specific topics in depth, the site contains links to more than 70 other Y2K-related Web sites.

The site requires a common software program called a plug-in that can be downloaded free from the vendor. Kehoe explained that the plug-in technology provides the developers with a multimedia capability that is used make the site even more effective. For users who do not already have the plug-in, download instructions are provided when the site is first visited. [Editor's Note: A modified version of the site that does not require the plug-in is expected to be ready shortly. In this version, some multimedia features will be scaled back, but all other Y2K information will be identical to what is presented on the full-feature site.]

"There's a wealth of information for the entire DoD community on this site, as well as for the general population," Kehoe said. We will regularly update the site and we plan to expand some sections where information is still limited such as the one dealing with Y2K challenges faced by service members assigned overseas. Our goal is to make sure everybody in DoD has the information they need to prepare for Y2K."

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