Pentagon issues final Y2K alert to commanders

With just eight days left before the long-awaited Year 2000 date change, the Defense Department has issued a final alert to local commanders to ensure that they are prepared and has advised units overseas to be prepared for local disruptions, opportunistic computer network attacks and attacks by hostile forces.

In a message sent on Dec. 16, Secretary of Defense William Cohen placed all commands overseas at alert posture Level Three, which indicates that local Year 2000-related disruptions are possible, as are requests for assistance by local civilian authorities, computer attacks and violence. The alert posture will be effective immediately on Dec. 31.

Cohen also placed all forces based in the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and all U.S. territories in alert posture Level Four. On a scale of one to five, with one being the highest alert level, Level Four indicates Year 2000-induced disruptions are unlikely.

The message also instructs commanders to "remain cognizant of the risk of overloading" communications circuits. "In the event that DOD is in Y2K posture Level 1 or 2, anticipate the DOD-wide imposition of minimize to ensure flow of our mission-essential information," the message stated. Several weeks ago DOD issued what is known as a minimize order, which instructs units to be prepared to keep communications to a minimum to free up critical bandwidth for high-priority information.

Commanders overseas also have been warned to prepare "game plans" to rely on should widespread Year 2000 failures necessitate the evacuation of American citizens from foreign countries. The State Department is compiling a list of the most probable locations where U.S. citizens will congregate during the Year 2000 date change to assist DOD in its planning. For security reasons, Federal Computer Week has decided not to release those locations.

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