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DoD Helps Governmentwide Preparations for Y2K Main Event

By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13, 1999 – It's mostly just a large open, quiet room in a downtown Washington office building right now. Almost all the workstations remain vacant. The computer screens are dark, and the large television screens suspended from the ceiling glow to a nonexistent audience.

But by the end of December the room will be anything but vacant and quiet. Computers will be glaring brightly day and night. Chatter from the televisions likely will be drowned out by chatter from the approximately 100 people who will fill the room. And the carpeting will be well tested by the increasing flurry of activity as the federal government's Information Coordination Center prepares for the Y2K main event -- Jan. 1, 2000.

In the federal government's multiyear battle against the millennium bug, the coordination center is the latest -- and perhaps the last -- White House initiative to contend with Y2K problems the new year may bring. The center will be a clearinghouse for Y2K information reported by federal agencies during the year-end rollover, according to Navy Cmdr. Randy Lovdahl, DoD's primary representative at the center.

Key participating federal agencies include the departments of State, Agriculture, Transportation, Energy, Health and Human Services, Veterans Affairs, Justice and Treasury; the Federal Emergency Management Agency; Environmental Protection Agency and Federal Communications Commission.

Center staff will monitor public infrastructures such as telecommunications, transportation, energy, health and emergency services, defense systems, water supplies, and systems that affect international trade and communications. Lovdahl emphasized that the center is not intended to fix any problems that may occur, only to monitor and report to the nation the status of systems.

"Departments and agencies are all expected to solve their Y2K problems at the lowest possible level, just as they normally would," he said. "What we're doing is monitoring the big picture and getting information to decision makers should any action be necessary."

Beginning Dec. 28, the ICC will operate on a routine daily schedule until Dec. 30, when it will begin 24-hour operations lasting into the first several days of January. But Lovdahl said operations could be curtailed shortly after Jan. 1 if Y2K ends up being a "nonevent. The ICC's Joint Public Information Center is expected to provide regular updates to the media depending on the flow of information and problems that may occur.

Lovdahl explained he has a dual role on the ICC. First, he will help collect information. "My role is to work with not only DoD, but the Department of Interior, Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross," he said. "All the agency representatives are divided up into teams to monitor systems and collect information.

In addition, he said, he will keep DoD posted on problems that may affect military operations. "I fully intend to be an early warning resource back to DoD," he said. "If I see events unfolding here such as cascading power outages overseas near our military installations, I'll be in a good position to relay that information back to the Decision Support Activity.

The support activity, part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence, is DoD's focal point for monitoring defense infrastructures during the Year 2000 rollover. It will track reports of potential DoD infrastructure problems and keep officials advised, and it will handle requests from the State Department and FEMA for assistance due to Y2K problems that may occur.

No major domestic problems are expected because of the Y2K bug, but Lovdahl said the government is taking no chances. If an emergency demands it, a catastrophic disaster response group can be formed to take advantage of the center's information monitoring ability. FEMA would lead and operate the group just as it would for natural disasters such as hurricanes and major winter storms.

While many people are still fretting and planning on how to best welcome in the new millennium, Lovdahl knows exactly where he will be and what he will be doing -- working the night shift at the ICC. And if all goes as well as government officials hope, the ICC night shift may well be celebrating the new year with the rest of the nation.

Related Site of Interest: DoD "Confronting Y2K" web site

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