Hamre Says DoD is OK for Y2K
By Paul Stone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 17, 1999 "We anticipate absolutely no problems in the Department of Defense."
That's how Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre characterized DoD's preparedness for Y2K during a Dec. 16 Pentagon briefing.
"Rarely does a military organization know precisely the time and the date and the place when the enemy will attack," Hamre said. "In this case we did...and we're ready."
Out of 2,101 mission-critical systems - those essential for warfighting capabilities - only two have not been repaired. But contingency solutions are in place and the two remaining systems are scheduled to be Y2K compliant in January, Hamre said. Of the approximately 5,500 non-mission critical systems, 10 still need work before they are ready for the year 2000. Hamre emphasized, however, that these systems are largely for "bookkeeping" and will not affect day-to-day operations.
Considering that in February 1998, more than 1500 of DoD's mission-critical systems had not been repaired, Hamre characterized the department-wide effort as "nearly miraculous."
"We turned things around. It was 18 months ago when only 25 percent of our mission-critical systems were fixed. So it did involve miracles. But we do miracles. Rarely, but we do them every now and then," Hamre quipped.
On a more serious note, Hamre emphasized that all "high- impact" areas for service members and their families, such as personnel systems, pay and health care, have received top priority within DoD.
"People will get paid," he stressed.
Hamre is equally confident about the health care system.
"Every one of the 300,000 items of equipment and supplies that we use in our military hospitals have been checked," Hamre said, adding that Y2K testing with medical supply vendors indicates there will be no interruption in vital services and care.
Similar extensive testing has been performed on essential warfighting systems, according to Adm. Bob Willard, who heads up the Y2K task force for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Describing the testing as "a headquarters-to-shooter view" of DoD systems, Willard said that after all warfighting systems were repaired they were then tested in a real world environment by turning clocks ahead to the year 2000.
"We have completed all of our operational evaluations against many hundreds of warfighting tasks successfully," Willard said. "We encountered very few failures, and those failures that we did experience were very minor in nature."
Hamre estimated the total bill for DoD's Y2K repairs to be about $3.6 billion - a figure he called "frustrating," but necessary. "We could not stand the consequences if we had not spent the $3.6 billion. And in the process we have much better positive control over our information systems."
Although confident that U.S.-based troops will sail through the new year without so much as a hiccup in services, Hamre said until recently he was less confident about certain areas overseas where U.S. installations are dependent on host nation support for power, water and telecommunications systems. But an intense effort with host nations during the past six months has resolved major concerns.
Another key focus of DoD Y2K efforts overseas during the past few years has been Russia's nuclear weapons. The Pentagon worked through a multi-phase program with the Russians, according to Peter Verga, deputy to the undersecretary of defense for policy support.
The program has included helping Russia repair vital communications links to the United States, installing Y2K compliant alarm systems for nuclear programs, assisting with command and control systems for weapons and establishing a joint U.S.-Russian Y2K Center for Strategic Stability at Colorado Springs, Colo. Verga said the center will have U.S. and Russian officers sitting side-by-side to watch "a common display of missile warning information so there will be no ambiguities in what's happening during this [the Y2K] period."
"We have 100 percent confidence on our side, and we are as confident in the Russians," Verga said.
Nor are DoD officials concerned about U.S. ability to work with NATO allies, saying that any small problems that do occur will not affect ongoing operations in Bosnia and Kosovo, or NATO's ability to respond to crises during the Y2K period.
Whether it's in the United States or overseas; whether it's problems with power or telecommunications or cyber attacks against military computer systems, DoD will be monitoring Y2K issues through the year 2000 rollover and beyond.
Hamre said a special cell will be attached to Pentagon's National Military Command Center to monitor events and determine any action necessary. The center will operate from Dec. 28 through Jan. 7.
"The services will be monitoring their respective installations and networks and they will be reporting up through designated centers to the Y2K cell here at the Pentagon," Hamre said. "And we will be feeding that information into the White House's Information Coordination Center." The ICC is the federal government's central clearinghouse for Y2K problems during the rollover period, and is staffed to coordinate responses to Y2K emergencies both within the United States and abroad.
While saying that commanders have the authority to respond to local Y2K failures if they threaten life or property, Hamre emphasized that DoD's primary responsibility during the Y2K period is to maintain warfighting capabilities. He said that commanders at all levels have plans in place to deal with any Y2K problems that may occur, know their responsibilities and have taken all possible steps to ensure that military personnel and their families will be taken care of regardless of failures that do occur.
But Hamre isn't expecting anything out of the ordinary to occur New Year's Eve and beyond.
"We shouldn't have a problem here we're going to confront that we wouldn't normally confront," he said.