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1998-03-25 17:06:30


US Nuclear Missiles at Risk, Says Y2K Czar


The newly appointed y2k czar has warned that our missiles may not function because of guidance system failures.

Airlines may not get their planes into the sky: FAA failures.

Companies may have to go back to pen and paper management systems.

There may be a financial collapse, too.

Other than this, we have nothing to worry about.

And critics call me a doom-and-gloomer, an apocalyptic.

This appeared in the London Sunday TIMES (March 22). The TIMES is to England what the NEW YORK TIMES is to the U.S.: authoritative and a bit boring.

* * * * * * * * *

AN American presidential adviser has warned that the country's military defences, including its nuclear arsenal, could cease to function unless action is taken to remedy the so-called "millennium bug", expected to cripple computers around the world on the stroke of midnight at the end of 1999.

John Koskinen, who began work this month leading a presidential council to co-ordinate work on the problem, does not want to cause undue alarm. Nor can he afford to rule out "doomsday scenarios" such as global insecurity or the collapse of financial markets if computer systems are not upgraded in time. . . .

Koskinen also warned that aircraft could be grounded at the start of the millennium. The Federal Aviation Administration has set up a special office to revamp its air traffic computers but some experts believe the task will not be completed in time.

Doubts about air safety in the first few days of 2000 could be disastrous, Koskinen predicted. "If suddenly in Hawaii nobody turned up for a few weeks because they were concerned about air traffic, that will have a very negative impact on the Hawaiian economy," he said.

Just as worrying, though, is the impact on financial markets: "There are some companies saying that as a contingency plan we can actually go back to a paper system." . . . .

Even if he can prevent disaster this time in America, he is worried that other countries may be lagging behind. "It is not clear to me that there is uniform attention to these problems around the world," he said, adding that he would be happy to meet Don Cruickshank, his British counterpart, to discuss a collaboration.

Time is, of course, running out. "There's nobody to negotiate with about this deadline," said Koskinen.

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