New DOD Web site targets Y2K education

The sky is not falling, according to a new Defense Department World Wide Web site that makes a concerted effort to distinguish among gloom, doom and truth when it comes to the Year 2000 computer glitch.

DOD's new Confronting Y2K Web site is designed as an antidote to the anxiety and reckless rumors surrounding the Year 2000 problem, according to Army Col. John Kehoe, director of information operations for American Forces News Service. The intention of the site is to enable members of the DOD community to concentrate on preparing for, fighting and winning wars rather than worrying about Year 2000 problems, he said.

According to Kehoe, most of the Year 2000 Web sites throughout DOD and government are geared toward a technical audience, with few offering general information for the average person on what to expect on Jan. 1, 2000. "We're trying to reach the broader DOD audience," Kehoe said. "We're trying to give them information that says, 'This is what you need to know about Y2K, and this is how it can affect your family,' " Kehoe said.

Located at www.defenselink.mil/specials/y2k/home.htm, the Web site offers views into how the Year 2000 problem will affect DOD personnel, their missions and their families. Through the use of pop-up menus, visitors to the site can choose subtopics such as health care, payroll, DOD systems, household goods, travel and utilities. The Macromedia Inc. Shockwave plug-in, which launches a multimedia presentation on the opening page, is a little difficult to handle for some computers and Internet connections, but Kehoe said the department plans to offer a plug-in-free version soon.

There also is a much needed, and probably a much visited, page on Year 2000 rumors, where visitors can view a list of debunked Year 2000 scuttlebutt. From misleading concerns regarding malfunctioning prison cell doors and nuclear missiles to getting stuck in elevators or dying from the affects of a failed pacemaker, the rumors page is a healthy shot of Year 2000 optimism.

The department also assures its personnel that they will, in fact, get paid on and after Jan. 1, 2000. DOD personnel and their families also will be happy to know that all of DOD's 12 mission-critical health care systems are Year 2000-compliant. However, caution is warranted when dealing with off-base health care contractors, such as nonmilitary pharmacies and nonmilitary hospitals, according to the Web site.

The Year 2000 Web site also provides a rundown of the status of DOD mission-critical and non-mission-critical systems. Adorned with a picture of a smiling John Hamre, the deputy secretary of Defense, the systems and equipment page reassures DOD personnel that the department "will continue operations and maintain military readiness before, during and after" Jan. 1.

To help DOD personnel and their non-Year 2000-savvy family members confront the Year 2000 bug head-on, DODalso has included an individual emergency preparedness page. Topping the advice list on this page is an appeal not to panic. "Panic will only result in hoarding of goods and create the types of shortages government and industry leaders are trying to prevent," according to the site. Other suggestions for preparing yourself and family members for Dec. 31 include keeping flashlights and extra batteries on hand, keeping at least a half a tank of gas in your car, taking enough cash out of the bank to last a weekend and maintaining a separate list of emergency numbers in case 911 systems are temporarily out of service.

"We're trying to avoid the panic we see out there on other Web sites," Kehoe said. "We don't want our men and women to be focusing on Y2K when they should be focusing on a warfighting mission."

In addition to the personal preparedness sections, the site also offers a look into international readiness. According to Kehoe, this section will be expanded as DOD commands that are overseas provide more information on local preparedness measures in their host countries.

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