Y2K pushes U.S., Russia to work on warning center for nukes

The Pentagon plans to dispatch a team to Russia next week to work on a "shared early-warning center" designed to preclude any accidental launch of missiles brought on by a Year 2000 bug in nuclear command and control systems.

The joint U.S./Russian early-warning center, announced by President Clinton last September, will allow the nations to pool their resources and expertise to detect missile launches by emergent nuclear states. But John Hamre, deputy secretary of Defense, said concerns about the possibility of Year 2000 bugs in nuclear command and control systems "brought a new sense of urgency'' to the establishment of the center.

Hamre, speaking at a press briefing devoted to how the Pentagon was dealing with the Year 2000 problem, said the United States would support placing the center in either Europe or the United States.

The North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), which operates the United States' early-warning systems, recently completed a successful end-to-end test of its 24 mission systems, rolling the systems' internal clocks to 2000. Army Lt. Col. Warren Patterson, who works on Year 2000 testing for the DOD Joint Staff, described this test as "highly successful."

Patterson said the NORAD test tracked 30 simulated missile attacks. The evaluation tested the capability of linked NORAD systems to provide this data in an integrated stream from early-warning radars to the NORAD command post located in bunkers burrowed in Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., to the National Military Command Center in the Pentagon. These simulated attacks included "mass'' missile attacks, Hamre said.

Patterson added that in all the tests "there was no degradation of [NORAD] systems. They operated as they should, [generating] accurate, unambiguous, clear data.''

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