8 December 1998. Thanks to Anonymous.

Full briefing: http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Dec1998/t12081998_t1208asd.html

DoD News Briefing

Tuesday, December 8, 1998 - 1:30 p.m.
Presenter: Mr. Kenneth H. Bacon, ASD (PA)


Q: Where does DoD stand in correcting or fixing systems that are vulnerable to the Y2K bug? Also, what's the status of cooperation with the Russians on this?

A: We have a very aggressive program to address the Y2K problem. Secretary Cohen declared a couple of months ago that this is a readiness issue first and foremost. Solving this problem is fundamental to guaranteeing that our forces will be able to operate effectively on the first day of the Year 2000. He has tasked all of the Chiefs, the Service Chiefs, as well as the CINCs of the area [unified] commands and functional commands to make this a top priority item.

We started out our analysis focusing in approximately 3,500, 3,600 so-called mission critical systems in the Defense Department. [The Department of Defense has approximately 10,000 computer systems, of which about 2,500 are designated as mission critical. About 53 percent of those required systems were Y2K compliant as of early November 1998; four percent are being replaced; four percent are being terminated and approximately 39 percent are currently in some stage of repair.] These range from warfighting systems such as command and control systems, intelligence systems, communication systems, to systems for paying soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines, and systems for making sure that logistics, that goods and services reach their destinations on time to support missions.

We are in the process of whittling down that number. I think we're down now below 2,500 mission critical systems that still need to be tested. I think we're well below that now, but we're in the process of testing those systems. I think we may be much lower than that right now, but we've tested a lot of these systems. It's a five part process of figuring out what the problem is. So you assess the process, you fix the process, then you test it to make sure that the process is fixed. The Secretary has instructed all of the Services and all of the area commands to hold a rigorous series of exercises to make sure that these fixes are in place and they're in fact working.

When you think about this, it's a very complex problem because we're talking about systems that have to be integrated. We're not just talking about checking out one system, we're talking about making sure that that system works in concert with all the other systems it's attached to. So we are spending billions of dollars on this process, and we're making fast progress. But early next year will be a crucial period because that's the period when many of these tests will take place to make sure that the fixes work.

Q: Are all the systems then fixed but not tested?

A: They are not all fixed yet. They should, we hope they will all be done in the first or second quarter of next year.

Q: What's the estimated cost now of this whole thing?

A: I'll take that question. I don't have... The figure $2 or $3 billion sticks in my mind, but we'll get you the exact figure.

Q: And the Russian side...

A: Well, the Russians have a lot of other problems to focus on right now. We have discussed Y2K with them. We had a group in Moscow last week that was there to discuss the shared early warning proposals that President Clinton and President Yeltsin announced I guess in the fall, September or so. We are going to set up a shared early warning center, a joint early warning center in Moscow that will be run by both Russian and American military officials. The idea of this is to help eliminate uncertainty or confusion about the possibility of missile launches or other types of military action that could, as I say, generate fears that shouldn't be there. We think that working together is a very good way to do that.

In the course of these talks we have talked to them about Y2K problems, and we're continuing those talks.

Q: When is that shared early warning center going to be established?

A: We're hoping to have it done by late '99. It could be early 2000. It's a complex process, obviously. We will be building it in a facility provided by the Russians, and it will use American and some Russian equipment as well.

Q: Am I confused on the point? I thought the point of that was to, in case there was some sort of Y2K glitch in the early warning...

A: That is one of the issues.

Q: Then it's sort of pointless to have it in early 2000 then isn't it?

A: We're aiming to try to have this done in late '99. Realistically, it might be done before that. But the fact that the system is not... If it is not done by the end of 1999, it doesn't mean that this work is useless because we will be sitting down with the Russians, working very closely with them, designing systems, designing sort of exercising on shared early warning tasks. So I think there's plenty of time for sharing and for addressing the Y2K problem as we approach that.

Q: How confident are you that the Russian strategic systems are safe or secured from the effects of Y2K bugs?

A: Well, I think that's one of the things we have to learn more about. We'll be working with the Russians to do that. I think the Russians are aware of the problem, I think they've been working on the problem. We'll work with them further to help them if they need help.

The Russians have very considerable computing expertise. They are very good at software. So they have it within their capability to deal with this problem. For all I know, they didn't design their computers the same way we designed ours. They my have had a longer time horizon in mind than our computer programmers did.

Let me just tell you one thing. Right now we estimate that it will cost $2.55 billion to correct the Y2K problem.

Q: I think there is a NATO meeting in Brussels. Can you tell us about the idea which the United States has already presented there in terms of the new concept there?

A: Yeah. You're talking about the strategic concept?

Q: Yes.

A: First of all, you can get off the Internet a copy of the communique from the meeting today, and I commend it to your attention. It's a meaty document and well worth a review. I know, Charlie, you'll want to download it as soon as possible and fit this into your dispatches.

This meeting, and one that Secretary Cohen will attend next week in Brussels, is part of the preparations for the Washington Summit that will be held here in April next year on the 50th Anniversary of NATO. That's also the time we'll admit three new members -- the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.

One of the things that we are working on, that NATO members are working on in the course of preparation for that meeting, is the strategic concept that will describe the goals of NATO and the operations of NATO into the 21st Century. We're continuing to work on that, but basically as this communique makes it very clear, this concept has to take into account not only the challenges that the Alliance faces today, but the challenges it's likely to face in the future, and these are challenges that can affect the stability and security and peace in Europe.

We're continuing to work that out. It will be a very important document, but it's not complete yet.

Q: Another subject. Intel's expected to announce that they've developed a new chip that would make satellites in space virtually invulnerable to nuclear blasts in space. Do you have any reaction to that?

A: I have not been briefed on that, so I think until I know more about it it would be better not to comment on it. I can tell you that we're always looking for ways to make all our systems more survivable in a number of threat environments.