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Russian officers to visit U.S. nuclear command center for Y2K joint program


From CNN National Security Producer Chris Plante

September 22, 1999
Web posted at: 5:34 a.m. EDT (0934 GMT)

In this story:

Stages of vulnerability

More precautions urged for 'level one'


WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Nine Russian military officers are scheduled to visit the U.S. Space Command's "Center for Year 2000 Strategic Stability" at Peterson Air Force Base on Wednesday.

Wednesday morning's visit will be the first up-close and personal look at the center for the Russian officers, who are scheduled to spend the rest of the week at the base.

On New Year's Eve, the $8 million center will be staffed with U.S. and Russian military officers watching carefully for any sign of a nuclear missile launch warning, glitches in early warning radar systems or power grid failures in either nation.

A similar center being built in Russia will host U.S. military officers on New Year's Eve so that the United States can monitor the Russian early warning can monitor the Russian early warning systems for potential Y2K related problems.

The two monitoring centers will have "redundant communications" to ensure that the visiting officers do not lose contact with their capitals should there be disruption in conventional communcations, said Navy Commander Scott Harris.

The centers are intended to create a situation where there are, "two people sitting side-by-side that have the real picture" and "can confirm what is real or not real," said Harris.

"If their system goes down (in Russia), they can see our system," he said. Harris told CNN that the possibility of any false warning indicating a missile launch is remote, but said that the more likley scenario includes a power failure or computer problems in the United States or Russia that could cause problems.

He said that is the purpose of the multi-million dollar centers. The shared centers are considered to be a "confidence building measure," Harris said, "so that they can see what we are seeing."

Current plans call for the creation of permanent monitoring centers in the United States and Russia, where the former Cold War enemies would staff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, with military officers sitting side-by-side, watching early warning screens, as they will on New Year's Eve.

Stages of vulnerability

In preparation for potential Y2K problems at military bases around the world, the Pentagon has spelled out a system of "five stages of Y2K vulnerability" to deal with worldwide staffing and emergency procedures.

"We are down to the final crucial months of preparation for the Year 2000 transition. This program is intended to provide a common framework from which to posture the (Defense) Department to meet the Y2K challenge," an internal memo from the Joint Staff says.

The memo, circulated to the armed services, commanders and agencies, says the Defense Department "is establishing five graduated Y2K posture levels for varying stages of Y2K vulnerability."

Level one locations are considered the most vulnerable, with level five sites expecting no disruptions.

Bases or facilities will be considered "level one" if they are deemed to be at the "highest state of Y2K vulnerability." The memo does not cite specific regions that would fall under the "level one" category.

More precautions urged for 'level one'

Sites in the category would include "widespread Y2K induced system failures and (probable) requests for military support to civilian authorities," or where "deliberate information operations attacks and opportunistic engagements by hostile forces are possible," the memo says.

Such "level one" locations should make preparations for the possible "stand-up of technical emergency response personnel, augmentation of watch teams, and other measures to guard against and respond to Y2K failure-induced effects," it says.

The memo suggests that these locations might include overseas bases where there is "low confidence" in "host nation support services."

"Posture level two," the second highest level, includes locations where "widespread Y2K induced" problems are "probable," rather than most probable.

"Posture level three" takes in sites where "localized disruptions" are "possible" and suggests that additional personnel may be required to ensure that operations continue uninterupted.

"Posture level four" encompasses areas where "disruptions are unlikely" and "normal staffing will suffice."

"Posture level five" locations are sites that expect "no Y2K vulnerability" and where "no restrictions are necessary," the memo says.

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