DOD: Y2K failures abroad threaten U.S. security

Signaling a shift in focus on the Year 2000 problem, Deputy Secretary of Defense John Hamre today told members of Congress that the Defense Department is most concerned about the impact on national security from Year 2000 failures in other countries, particularly Russia.

Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Hamre said the biggest Year 2000 threat to the U.S. military stems from the lack of focus on the part of many allied countries where U.S. forces are based.

According to Hamre, the power grids and other critical public services likely will be the first systems to fail in these countries because of the Year 2000 bug. "We may have to send supplementary power generation [systems]," Hamre said.

However, DOD also is inviting the Russian military to take part in a Joint Center for Year 2000 Strategic Stability to be located at the North American Aerospace Defense Command headquarters, Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

The new facility will be operational this fall and is an effort by DOD to "give [Russia] the confidence that nothing funny is going on," Hamre said.

The move addresses increasing concern about Year 2000 glitches in computers controlling the early warning systems of the Russian nuclear arsenal when the clocks roll forward on Jan. 1. It is widely accepted that a screen blackout could be construed by the Russians as a precursor to a U.S. attack.

"The development of [the Joint Center] must occur," said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D-Conn.). "This is the ultimate form of Russian roulette."

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