Marines issue Y2K gag order

Marine Corps headquarters recently dispatched a message to its major commands that significantly restricts the release of information regarding the failure of any mission-critical computer system because of Year 2000 problems and aims to "synchronize" how the Corps will respond to public requests for information about such failures.

The Corps plans to set up what it calls a Y2K Response Cell to coordinate all public requests for information regarding the impact of the Year 2000 date change on Marine Corps systems and operations.

However, the Nov. 29 message prohibits the release of information to the public on "the failure of any of the Marine Corps' 71 mission-critical or 56 mission-support systems."

The order also prohibits the release of information on any failure that has an impact on ongoing operations, exposes forces or installations to external threats, or that causes a "critical loss of...warfighting capability."

In their efforts to "synchronize" a servicewide response to major Year 2000 failures, Marine Corps headquarters has issued canned public statements that public affairs officials will be authorized to make during the Year 2000 transition period, which runs Dec. 28 through Jan. 4.

The approved public affairs statements outlined in the message from Marine Corps headquarters include: "The Marine Corps is ready and will be prepared to support, protect and defend the American people in need worldwide as it always has. Through the coordinated efforts of many professionals working long hours, the Marine Corps continues to make great progress in meeting all challenges associated with Y2K. The Marine Corps will continue to make Y2K one of its highest priorities to ensure a seamless transition with no degradation of our warfighting capability. The efforts of many determined professionals have contributed in making this coming new year as inconsequential militarily as any other."

The message also provides approved questions and answers for use by public affairs representatives.

Public affairs officials throughout the Marine Corps, however, are authorized to release nonsensitive information on Year 2000 failures that "are readily apparent through simple observation," according to the message.

When asked about the order, a spokesperson for the Marine Corps said the two public affairs officers who handle Year 2000 issues are on leave.

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