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DoD News Briefing: Y2K Briefing

Presenters: Robert F. Willard, Rear Admiral, USN
December 31, 1999 2:00 PM EDT

Y2K Briefing

Admiral Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have planned two specific times for updates or briefings to you-all on how DOD is being affected by the Y2K rollover as we move around the world. One of them is now. The second is at noon tomorrow, after the entire world has had an opportunity to experience rollover, and we've had a little bit of time to assess how we've been affected.

We will keep open the option to have additional briefings kind of on a pop-up basis as the hours progress, if there is news to be had. So we will put the word out through DefenseLINK. We will put the word out in posted notices here. I would welcome you to call in to the news desk, if you wish to find out the next scheduled briefing, or some combination of the above, just to keep abreast. And we'll try to get the word out as best we can. But those are the two that we are planning for sure: this one and noon tomorrow.

Dr. Hamre will be the lead briefer tomorrow, and I would like to introduce the lead briefer today, Rear Admiral Bob Willard from the Joint Staff. He has been in charge of the Y2K preparations for the Joint Staff.

Admiral Willard?

Admiral Willard: Thank you. Good afternoon.

I'd like to begin the briefing today, if I may, by reading an announcement. It states that the first Department of Defense baby was born at 0014 hours local time at Naval Hospital on Marine Corps Base Camp Butler in Okinawa to Air Force parents. It is a joint baby.

Baby Lauren, born to Airman First Class Lisa Matthews and Senior Airman Joshua Matthews, arrived 21 inches long, seven pounds 12 ounces. Mother and baby are doing fine. We can't be sure, but we believe Lauren will join the Army when of age.

We have had a year 2000 augmentation cell operating in our National Military Command Center here in the Pentagon, as well as other bodies to help monitor the year 2000 transition, on a 24-hour basis for the past several days.

It's been an unprecedented look at the world, frankly, for us, and today's briefing will be very consistent, I think, with what you've seen in the international picture to date. If I may --

This is a very simple chart, but the red line helps to denote about where we are currently in terms of time zone. And what you see in the green dots are countries in which we have large concentrations of Department of Defense installations that have undergone the century rollover and are reporting themselves fine.

To date, we have no installations from Department of Defense that have indicated any disruptions, either in their own systems or in the host nation systems that are being provided to them, and that is very encouraging news.

I think, as a caution, though, that I should mention that year 2000, in our experience, does not always manifest itself within the first minutes or hours following a rollover event, but rather could be hours or days or weeks from now in terms of manifesting itself. And 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.

With that, I'd like to open myself to your questions.

Yes, sir?

Q: Admiral, I think the first -- wasn't the first rollover at Kwajalein?

Admiral Willard: It was.

Q: And then it moved to Guam and to Korea, on and --

Admiral Willard: That's correct. Kwajalein -- and we have actually an Army air station located at Kwajalein that reported to us first from the Department of Defense and reported that it was having no problem with the rollover.

Q: Have you had any requests from governments, municipalities in any of these places, for help?

Admiral Willard: We have not. Not today.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: Any unusual, like, hacker activity?

Admiral Willard: The answer is no, to date, although we'll confine ourselves primarily to the technical dimension of year 2000.

Although I think it has been stated already that the Internet is experiencing a good amount of activity, we're not seeing anything untoward as yet.

Q: Have you taken any of the DOD systems down in the last 24 hours to adjust, fiddle with them?

Admiral Willard: To adjust, fiddle, not to my knowledge. There is no stated policy currently that establishes that we'll take any Defense systems down. That doesn't preclude agencies or local commanders from taking unnecessary systems off line if they deem necessary. And I would suspect that some agencies and some local commands have perhaps taken web sites or other things off line to prevent intrusion over the weekend.

Q: One area of concern has been nuclear power plants. I realize that the United States military doesn't have any nuclear power plants in this area, but are you aware of any problems with nuclear power plants as the rollover passed through this region?

Admiral Willard: None.

Q: And do you continue to have good eyes on the Russian nuclear power plant that was out in the eastern part of Russia?

Admiral Willard: Within the context of what the Information Coordination Center is providing in our interactions with them, yes. We're observing the power grids and the power suppliers as we move around the world.

Q: You see no dimming anywhere as a result of the rolling?

Admiral Willard: Thus far, no.

Q: Is there any indication that any of the Russian early warning radars have lost power?

Admiral Willard: No. In fact, I asked that we contact Space Command and determine what the current state of play is with the Center for Year 2000 Strategic Stability, where we sit alongside the Russians at Peterson Air Force Base. And within minutes of coming down here, they had no events whatsoever and were happily monitoring for ballistic missile launch and other year 2000-related issues.

Q: Of the 2,100 mission-critical systems that the Pentagon has, what percentage are actually up and running today, over the next couple of days, versus what will string out over the next three or four days?

Admiral Willard: Without being able to give you an absolute answer, the majority of our mission-critical systems are up and operating at any time. And the reason is that we have long-haul systems that reach out around the world. Currently we list more than 100 key installations around the world that are all reliant as they maintain the watch around the world on those mission-critical systems. So very few of them are not in operation today.

That is not to say that when work resumes next week, that there's not added interest in observing the status of our systems across the board, whether they be mission-critical or non-mission-critical, because, as we would expect for the systems throughout the world, the beginning of the work week and the level of play on those systems next week have the potential for a spike in terms of level of risk. So we'll be watching them closely throughout the week, and particularly on Monday morning.

Q: Are these systems that have computers or computer chips that have sort of tied to the time or calendar? And are they set to local time, wherever it is, or are they all set to Greenwich mean time, or is it a mix, or how does that work?

Admiral Willard: That's a good question, and the answer is that it's a mix. We have systems -- in fact, to kind of categorize them, the long-haul systems, whether they be intelligence-related or communications-related, that range around the world by and large use a universal time constant, like Greenwich mean time. The localized systems are a mix. And the majority of them use local time, but we have a variety of systems that are reliant on a universal time constant, and Greenwich mean time is the one that we use the most.

We interact with a lot of civilian infrastructure, frankly, that is Greenwich mean time-dependent. A good example is the FAA, where our aviators that fly the airways are utilizing similar procedures to civilian pilots when they ready for their flights. And they're on Greenwich mean time, by and large.

We have lots of date stamps, on messaging systems and so forth, that are Greenwich mean time-peculiar.

Greenwich mean time rolls over about 1900 tonight. That will be a time that we'll be interested in observing, and we'll be monitoring the status of those systems that are reliant on Greenwich mean time then.

Q: The SSN Topeka was the first weapons program -- weapons system that underwent the transition. Have you talked to the commander? And feedback did you get?

Admiral Willard: I have not talked to the commander personally. The services are represented here. They, through their command centers, are monitoring all of their forces, both deployed and non- deployed, as well as all of their installations around the world, and are to be in receipt of any incidents that occur related to year 2000.

To date, none have, so without having been in contact with the commander myself, only having witnessed, as you have on the news, a few of our Navy representatives, for example, and Air Force representatives around the world commenting on their status, we know of no systems that are currently deployed that are problematic.

Yes, sir?

Q: What time did Kwajalein and Guam check in, Eastern Standard?

Admiral Willard: I think Kwajalein was at 0700 this morning; I'll verify it for you.

Staff: (Off mike.)

Admiral Willard: Zero seven-seventeen is when they actually checked in, and Guam checked in right at 0900. In fact, almost concurrently we were observing the interviews that were happening in Guam by our Naval commander and Air Force commander there.

Q: May I ask another --

Admiral Willard: Sure.

Q: How many people do you have in the building today, actually monitoring the situation ongoing?

Admiral Willard: We have a normal -- speaking for the uniformed side, within the National Military Command Center, we have a normal operations team that is monitoring the situation. They number about 30. In addition to that, we have a Y2K augmentation cell that numbers as many as 10 but generally around a half a dozen, up to about 10 folks, that are screening very particular information; specific websites. They're in communication with a number of Department of Defense agencies, and they are helping augment that operations team.

As well, we have a considerable number of watch-standers, additionally, that are on call, should we require them, and thus far we have not.

Q: When will you return to normal operations in the National Military Command Center? Is this augmentation going to continue for a day or two, or week or two, or -- when does it stop?

Admiral Willard: We intend to operate it on a 24-hour basis through about the 4th of January, realizing that I'm referring just to the augmentation part of this. The National Military Command Center works 24-hour operations all the time.

Q: And then you'd go back to normal operations?

Admiral Willard: So we would then, barring any reason to maintain ourselves in this 24-by setup with our augmentation cell, we would revert back to normal. There are actually a variance of dates. Some commands have elected to maintain themselves until about the 7th of January, but by and large, once we're through next week, most of our organizations will revert back to a normal schedule.

Yes, ma'am?

Q: One of the chief concerns going into this were all the microprocessing chips, estimated in the millions -- I think? -- or billions, was it? -- throughout DOD.

Admiral Willard: Millions.

Q: Any sense that these things are having any trouble?

Admiral Willard: No. We're very encouraged, again, by the work that has been done and the results that we're seeing. We have focused on microprocessors for years, literally, attempting to remediate our systems that were at risk. And I think the preliminary reports that we're seeing thus far are encouraging that our confidence in our remediation process should be very high right now. But again, the caution that some of the year 2000 problems don't necessarily manifest themselves in just the few short hours that we've had to observe them.

Q: Have you seen even any insignificant evidence of any sort of Y2K -- (inaudible)? Okay, so obviously you haven't had any problems, but has there been any evidence at all, maybe just a date showing up in a quirky format, or has there been any evidence that there's been any effect of Y2K?

Admiral Willard: I actually saw a little subheading on one of the Service Times articles that established that the date was 1900. So, you know, the issues are out there. But again, from the standpoint of our mission-critical systems or non-mission-critical systems that we're using for our war-fighting forces today, we have seen none, and that's good, though we'll be able to answer that, obviously, with a great deal more confidence next week.

Q: Is that good, or is that astounding to you, after seeing the level to which you have had to go to get down into the weeds on this?

Admiral Willard: If you refer to -- take a look at where we are today, we have a ways to go. We have to roll over a couple of fairly key time zones before our level of confidence is built. And it's been only a few hours. We actually established some predictive listings for our watch standers so that they could observe what we expected that they would observe around the world. And up to this point in time, by and large we have seen what we have predicted we would see.

So we're not astounded by what we've seen; we're encouraged that the hard remediation work, the preparedness in terms of contingency plans and continuity of operations plans, not only by the United States, but by our foreign partners, who in many ways and means we've been working with for the past year or so, are in fact working.

I mean, a lot of people's effort went into making this as much a non- event as we possibly could.

Q: You still have about 90 percent or more of DOD systems to clear, right? I mean, this is just a drop in the bucket that we're seeing.

Admiral Willard: I think we're at the preliminary stages of indicating complete victory.

Q: What was the final tally on DOD Y2K remediation costs?

Staff: Three --

Admiral Willard: Three-point-five -- $3.6 billion.

Q: I must have missed something when Jack said you still have 90 percent of the systems that have to roll over --

Admiral Willard: Well, he's suggesting -- individual systems -- see if we can characterize this. We have 2,100 or so systems, prolific, around the world. Most of those systems are resident in the units and commands and installations that have already undergone the rollover. However, we have lots of individual systems to confirm that remediation efforts on those systems across the Department of Defense are successful to go. So we've got, you know, collectively a lot of the Department of Defense yet to cover over time, and we'll be observing all of our installations and all of our systems that have been distributed during that time. So I think -- you can correct me if I'm wrong, but I think that's what we meant when we said 90 percent.

Q: What are the -- oh, go ahead.

Q: Now that you're sort of into Y2K, would you say that, looking back on the last six months or so of media coverage of this, has it been overblown? Is the Y2K bug more hype than anything else?

Admiral Willard: No. We believe very strongly that the year 2000 is a tremendous technological risk and that the remediation efforts thus far that have been, again, not only national, but international, were absolutely necessary and are hopefully going to be characterized by the type of results that you see today for the coming weeks.

Q: You didn't flush $3.6 billion down the toilet is --

Admiral Willard: No. And -- absolutely not. Moreover, there are a lot of residual benefits, we think, from the level of effort that we've gone into.

I think we know ourselves, technologically, better than we ever have before.

Q: What level of coordination do you have with DISA's computer emergency response team that's responsible for monitoring actual cyberattacks on U.S. systems?

Admiral Willard: The year 2000 augmentation cell in the National Military Command Center is monitoring the output from the organization. And so we're in receipt, near real time, of any issues that arise.

Q: Have any major issues arisen, or even minor ones, at this point?

Admiral Willard: The answer is no. There -- as have been characterized in the past, there is still the issue of viruses and other hacker issues that may become apparent at the rollover locally, and so I think the watchword currently is "caution." We're observing very hard to determine whether or not any of the information operations issues come to pass, come our local rollover. So, it's being observed and at midnight tonight, you know, I think we'll be extra vigilant.

Yes, sir?

Q: There has been concern about viruses, as you mentioned. Did you have anybody in the places where midnight has already passed fire up systems that normally they would not be running at that hour to see if viruses were planted, so that you could do something about them before midnight got to us?

Admiral Willard: Without knowledge of all of the local actions that were taken, we did, across the services, in fact, fire up systems in locales that would ordinarily over the weekend not be operating, not necessarily to check for viruses, but to check for system operability. So there have been a goodly number of systems checked out over the past hours to ensure that they operate. And were a virus present, then our operators would know that.

Yes, sir?

Q: Have you found any cases where the Y2K fix has unintentionally caused -- broken other things, caused other problems?

I was reading some expert saying that you go in and you fix 100 things and you unintentionally break five or six.

Admiral Willard: I would characterize it this way, particularly as it pertains to software.

Any time we develop a software patch to remediate a system, whether it's year 2000-related or not, we generally then take that system and all related subsystems through very intricate testing to determine whether or not that software addition in any way adversely impacts the program or the subprograms associated with it. And we did that with year 2000.

Did some patches over the past several years that were applied to software programs cause problems that had to then further be remediated? Sure. I think that anyone that's familiar with computer systems and software would say that that is always the case and always worth paying attention to.

Q: None of those problems have shown up lately is what you're saying.

Admiral Willard: No.

Q: Have U.S. government folks been in touch with officials in some of these governments like Pakistan, India, and China, to know that everything's copacetic there, or is there a chance that there's some disarray regarding their military equipment that we don't yet know about?

Admiral Willard: I suppose there's a possibility that there are things occurring in some countries that we know little about presently, though where we have ambassadors, we know that the State Department is in constant contact with their ambassadors, and they are receiving feedback from their embassies and from their country teams to note the condition, at least in and around the location of the embassy. Where we have Americans, by and large, whether it's in industry or government, there are lines of communication that are contributing to, I think, the results that you're seeing internationally. So the answer is yes.

But you know, again, are there some countries that we have less information on? Yes.

Q: You said earlier that -- I think you said that you were on the verge of declaring complete victory. Are you saying that you believe, based on what you know so far, that the rest of the day and tomorrow is going to go the same way and there won't be any problems?

Admiral Willard: No, and I think I said almost the opposite. I said it's too soon to declare victory.

Q: Oh, yes --

Admiral Willard: And frankly, we have not only today and the remainder of the weekend to observe closely what's happening around the world, but in the coming week and particularly at the beginning of our business week we'll be observing very closely.

Q: I'm sorry. I misunderstood.

One other question: If it turns out that other countries that didn't spend nearly the effort to fix the Y2K problem don't have any major problems either, will that show that in fact the problem was overstated to begin with?

Admiral Willard: I don't think so. And that's because we're very confident that the failures that we've seen on our technology systems that can result from year 2000 are real. We've tested systems to failure and then gone back and remediated the system, so we know year 2000 is a problem and we know that the remediation pinpointed those problems to allow the operability of our systems. I believe that some countries will weather this storm through the use of contingency plans and other practical means of working around technological problems -- again, something that I think every country in the world and every industry in the world is somewhat practiced in, to include the Department of Defense. So I think the real focus in the past six months with year 2000, frankly, has been on contingency planning and preparing to work around problem areas that could be the result of a year 2000 failure.

Q: What are the critical time zones yet to come? You said there are a couple of important ones. Where are they, and at what time will they occur?

Admiral Willard: Well, we actually have -- from a DOD perspective, this map is divided up by area of responsibility of our unified commanders. And what you can see is that CINCPAC, or Pacific Command, has rolled over first, and that's what by and large we've been observing up to this point. We are presently beginning to roll over in Central Command, where we'll obviously be very interested in seeing how the Gulf states do, and then we'll roll over in European Command, and we have a great many interests and DOD personnel and dependents in Europe, and obviously, that's a focus of our interest. And then lastly, Southern Command will roll over at about the same time that the rest of us in the United States do, and we've got, obviously, interests down there. So from a DOD perspective, we're focused on our unified commands where our installations and personnel are located throughout the world, as well as the locations of large concentrations of U.S. civilians or areas of interest for our unified commanders, as well as the areas that we consider to be high risk around the world that they need to keep an eye on.

Q: Did Kwajalein and Guam have a more stringent checklist to go through in terms of Y2K compliance than the other 637 bases around the world because they were going to be the first rollover locations?

Admiral Willard: Not at all. What they did, however, do, was be on watch in a fashion realizing that they weren't going to have the benefit of seeing the world before them roll over. So if it makes sense, the degree of alertment by those forces should, obviously, be a bit higher simply because they won't have the forewarning that the rest of us have.

So those forces were prone to check in and provide their status quickly. They were all on the watch to ensure that no problems occurred.

Q: Could you give a sense of, from the mundane to the significant, some of the systems they looked at, ranging from sewers and water to early warning radar?

Admiral Willard: Well, our focus overseas, which is where we've been focused, obviously, up to this point, with our installations, has been twofold. It's been on the installations themselves and the success of our remediation efforts. So it's on their own systems, and those include their communication systems, the systems that internally, inside the fence of the installation, would provide power and command-and-control and, in fact, all of our forces and associated equipment with our forces.

So what's inside the fence has been important to us, but we've had a great deal of confidence, frankly, in its condition. The other thing that we've been focused on is the host nations' support that are provided to our installations. There were actually 15 areas that we were focused on, seven major areas, and they range from things like power and telecommunications to the various forms of transportation that the host nation provides to the base, to the more mundane things like sewer and water and medical support and so forth. So, installation commanders, for many months now, have been grading, you know, if you will, the host nation on the reliance on those support activities.

And as I mentioned, most of what we've seen turn over in the green was predicted, frankly, to turn over in the green. We've had assessment teams from the secretary of Defense's office that have gone into the field and worked very closely with not only country teams, but the host nation vendors themselves, to determine the status of those support activities. So we're looking at a lot of things, both internally and external to DOD.

Q: As you've gotten your grades in, what area or what countries seem to be the least prepared for it, which one gives you the most headache? I've heard Italy.

Admiral Willard: You've heard some of the countries that started into year 2000 a little bit late, and by and large it's those countries. So the countries that we have had the concerns over were the countries that entered into the year 2000 remediation process much later than the United States did. And they're scattered about the world, frankly. In those areas, the installation commanders spent more time working on continuity of operations plans to work around potential host-nation failures than perhaps some more highly confident installation commanders have.

Q: Can you give us a couple examples of those countries?

Admiral Willard: Actually, I'd prefer to stay away from the specifics, but we continue to monitor those countries and our installations throughout this period. I would add that the installation commanders in every DOD installation ultimately wound up very confident in their ability to either work around their own systemic problems or work around any of the host nation problems. And they took great pains to examine themselves. They not only developed the continuity of operations plan, some of which had been long since developed for the loss of power, for example, for an installation, but they trained personnel, they augmented teams in trained personnel, and they actually examined themselves and their ability to execute it. So they were ready going into this, and very ready in the areas that we considered to be particularly vulnerable.

Q: Do you have any information on what, if anything, happened in North Korea?

Admiral Willard: From the input that we've received from South Korea thus far, without specifics, it appears right now that South Korea is in good shape, as I mentioned earlier, not only our forces there but the Republic of Korea forces there, who we've been working with fairly closely for a goodly amount of time. 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.

Q: Thank you.

Q: This isn't a rollover question, but I know you're in touch with the people at the National Command Center.

Has there been any sign of any activity today by Russian forces, given the turnover in the political climate in Russia?

Admiral Willard: A little beyond my scope, obviously, but to my knowledge, within the National Command Center, none. In fact, I, as you probably did, heard the president's acknowledgement of President Yeltsin's election to step down. And we've been working very, very closely with the Russians on this particular issue now for many, many months. As you know, we're sitting side by side at Peterson Air Force Base, and we continue to dialogue with the Russians with regard to year 2000 today. So we're very confident that we'll continue that dialogue.

Q: If you don't feel comfortable, can Admiral Quigley address -- where did he go? He ran away.

Can you address the Russian issue with any more specificity -- alerts, anything else, troops on the street?

Admiral Willard: Thanks very much.

Admiral Quigley: Thank you.

I could put it very simply; we have seen nothing in the way of an increased level of activity in the Russian military that would give us the slightest concern, having anything to do with President Yeltsin's election to resign.

Q: What about control of Russia's nuclear arsenal?

Admiral Quigley: Again, through Colorado Springs, it is apparent that that has remained stable through the period of time that President Yeltsin announced his resignation and up till now.

Q: Well, Craig, has -- because of Yeltsin's resignation, did that resonate at the Y2K Stability Center in terms of even more rigorous alert than they would have normally had?

Admiral Quigley: Not that we have seen, Tony. It has been a very level keel, a very level of -- even level of effort. And we've seen no increased level of activity amongst the Russian military.

Q: Thanks.

Q: Are you familiar with or could you explain what happened with the Department of Defense's DefenseLINK website today? Apparently, it was --

Admiral Quigley: We did that to ourself.

Q: -- it was inaccessible to some, but not all, members of the public. Do you know what happened? Or can you explain that, or --

Admiral Quigley: It was -- I cannot explain completely, but it was in preparations for trying to improve the accessibility and ensure the continued accessibility. We did something wrong in those preparations. We think we've got it fixed to, I believe, all of the ways in, whether you're on AOL or Erol's or what have you as an Internet service provider. We'll keep watching it closely. But it's something that we did to ourself.

Q: This was not -- so this was not a Y2K issue?

Admiral Quigley: No.

Q: It was human error, not Y2K?

Admiral Quigley: I'm sorry?

Q: Human error --

Admiral Quigley: Human error, and not Y2K.

Q: How long was it inaccessible to some people?

Admiral Quigley: Well, it wasn't 100 percent inaccessible. That was what was kind of driving everybody nuts. It was accessible continuously by some Internet service providers and not by others. And we had to sort out whether or not it was the Internet service provider's problem or if it was DefenseLink's problem. We figured out it was ours, and we think we've got it fixed --

Q: How long did it take from when you first noticed the problem?

Admiral Quigley: A few hours. I want to say from early morning until around midday, Pam, I believe.

Staff: Thank you.

Q: Thank you.

This transcript was prepared by the Federal News Service, Inc., Washington, DC. Federal News Service is a private company. For other defense related transcripts not available through this site, contact Federal News Service at (202) 347-1400.

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