From the Dow Jones Newswires.
November 15, 1999
Dow Jones Newswires
US Govt Opens $50 Million Y2K Crisis Center
WASHINGTON (AP)--The U.S. government offered the first public glimpse
Monday of its new $50 million Y2K nerve center, a highly computerized
crisis room near the White House designed to track failures worldwide
caused by the Year 2000 technology problem.
President Bill Clinton's top Y2K adviser, John Koskinen, said the
administration continues to believe there will be no major national
problems, but said its Information Coordination Center will watch for
"some glitches" anticipated during the New Year's date rollover.
"We hope that night will be really boring," said Koskinen, standing
before a glass-empaneled room filled with high-end computers and digital
maps showing global time zones. He called it "the one place in the world
with the most complete information."
The government Monday also began cautioning against panic as people
discover problems during the New Year's weekend, since some non-Y2K
computer failures might simply coincide with the date rollover.
"We'll have failures from time to time whether you have a century date
change or not," said Skip Patterson, who runs the Year 2000 program for
Bell Atlantic Corp. Experts have previously warned of widespread phone
outages if everyone tried to make a call around midnight - what Koskinen
described as "Mother's Day by multiples."
Nationwide almost every day, for example, some Internet sites crash,
electricity temporarily fails or airline flights are delayed. In the
earliest hours of Jan. 1, no one may know whether problems were caused
by the Y2K bug or something else.
"The presumption is to blame all failures on Y2K that weekend," Koskinen
About 10% of all credit transactions fail routinely because, for
example, equipment breaks down or because consumers are overextended or
forget their ATM password, said Paul Schmelzer, an executive vice
president for Orlando, Fla.-based Star Systems Inc., which process about
2 billion financial transactions annually.
He expects those same problems to show up Jan. 1.
"What consumers need to do if they go to an ATM on New Year's Day and
find for whatever reason they can't get service, they should do what
they do today - go find a machine down the block or get cash back in the
grocery store," Schmelzer said. "Let's don't immediately assume we've
got some serious Y2K problems."
The government's Y2K crisis center is hardly a bunker - it's on the 10th
floor of a downtown building just blocks from the White House - but it
includes backup communications systems and entrance guards.
Reports of any problems - rated "minor" or "significant" - will be
shared with the White House and top government officials who will decide
what to do. Information overseas will be fed by the State and Defense
departments and industry groups, starting at roughly 6 a.m. EST Dec. 31,
when midnight falls worldwide first in New Zealand.
A flurry of activity is expected as midnight arrives across U.S. time
zones, with more attention starting midday EST Jan. 2 as employees
worldwide begin returning to their offices - and turning on their
computers - for the first time since the date change.
Koskinen predicted that any hacker attacks could be more easily detected
during the date rollover because computers will be so closely monitored.
A hacker calling himself "Comdext0r" vandalized a Web site at the
Commerce Department late Sunday, warning people to "run for your lives!"
and to "hit your computer's power button and never, ever turn it on
again" because of the Y2K bug.
A spokesman for the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration, the government agency that handles high-tech policies,
said its Internet site was altered about 9 p.m. Sunday but repaired
about one hour later.
Koskinen noted that recreational hackers typically vandalize Web sites
to demonstrate some vulnerability that a computer administrator failed
to fix. He said he was hopeful hackers wouldn't try such demonstrations
during the weekend date change.
"We think they will understand this is not the best time to do that,"