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DoD News Briefing

Saturday, January 01, 2000 - 12:00 p.m. EST
Presenter: Deputy Secretary of Defense John J. Hamre

Year 2000 Rollover Update

Also participating: Rear Admiral Robert F. Willard, Joint Chiefs of Staff Y2K Task Force, and Deputy Under Secretary of Defense Pete Verga

Rear Admiral Quigley: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We have three briefers this afternoon and others available that we hope that would be available -- we hope to be capable of answering all of your questions. We'll start off with Dr. Hamre, the deputy secretary of Defense, for an overview, to be followed by Rear Admiral Bob Willard to report on the unified commanders' reports around the world, and then Mr. Pete Verga to talk a little bit about the Strategic Early Warning Center out in Colorado Springs. We have also available representatives from each of the services if there is a service-specific question that they need to respond to.

With that, Dr. Hamre.

Dr. Hamre: Well, Happy New Year to everybody. I'd like to begin first by saying thank you to the several hundred thousand members of our armed forces and civilians who yesterday, while the rest of America was celebrating, were out protecting and defending us. They did a terrific job, as usual. Our operations proceed as they do. We're an organization that doesn't take time off. And everybody that was out on the front lines yesterday did a terrific job, and we're very pleased that everything has gone so well.

We have checked with all of our operational commanders, and operations are absolutely normal around the world. And I will ask Admiral Bob Willard, who was with you yesterday, to give you an update as it relates to each of our CINCs and things that they're reporting to us.

As you know, despite some fear-mongers' guesses, we absolutely did not have a nuclear event last night. And the stability center out at Colorado Springs functioned normally. Pete Verga is going to give a brief update for that. It was exactly as we had hoped it would be. It was an act of reassurance between us and Russia, and it worked just as we had planned.

Most of the day was uneventful. We had a number of small anomalies around the world, very small. In getting ready for this, we learned that we did have a cash register that refused to process receipts in Okinawa, so we're looking at that level of detail.

But we did have one significant problem, one that I had wished we hadn't had, but we did. One of our intelligence systems, a satellite-based intelligence system, experienced some Y2K failures last night shortly after the rollover of Greenwich Mean Time. And for a period of several hours, we were not able to process information from that system.

The satellites were always under positive control. At no time were we ever without positive control over the space assets. Our problem actually was here on the ground, in the processing station. We were able to adopt backup procedures, which had indeed been planned and rehearsed, and they are in place right now as we're working through the final details. We are operating at less than our full peacetime level of activity today, but all of our high-priority needs, both for the Department of Defense and other national customers, are fully being met. So we are very satisfied with the way things are proceeding.

As to cyberspace, this was a remarkably quiet weekend. We've had fewer problems in cyberspace. There's always skirmishing. (Inaudible) going on in cyberspace now. It's more the norm. And we've had less this weekend than we have normally had. There have been a number of efforts to penetrate systems; as I said, less than the norm. And in each of those instances, we've been able to contain them. In a few instances, we've actually cut off some systems to make sure that there were no problems. But everything is operating fine.

There are fewer examples of year 2000 viruses than people had forecast. And indeed, we have no confirmed evidence of a virus that was triggered by the calendar rollover. There are normal sorts of virus activity that you would find on a day-to-day basis, and frankly less than is the norm.

With that, let me ask [Rear] Admiral Willard if he would come up and give us a brief report on what the CINCs are reporting so that you hear from him exactly what I heard a few minutes ago. Admiral?

Rear Admiral Willard: Thank you, Mr. Secretary. And Happy New Year. I'd just like to report favorably, and it'll be brief, that we've now been dealing with all of our regional unified commanders who have undergone the century change, and their systems continue to be operating normally. Recall that we are maintaining close scrutiny on more than 100 overseas installations, some of which have large numbers of DOD personnel assigned to them, and frankly, large numbers of DOD dependents outside the gates in the area surrounding the installations.

We look at both the installation itself and its Year 2000 compliance and the host nation and the support that the host nation gives to those overseas installations. To date, more than 100 installations have all checked in with us, and all are operating normally, both within the confines of their boundaries and with regard to their host nation providers. So it's a very favorable report. We're very encouraged.

I would only caution that this continues to be day one and a half in a series of days that we intend to maintain focus on the readiness of our forces to ensure that Year 2000 doesn't manifest itself somewhat down the line; but a very good report from all of the CINCs.

Thank you.

Dr. Hamre: And then to speak to our cooperative program with the Russians out at Colorado Springs, Pete Verga, if you would very briefly give us an update.

Mr. Verga: Thanks, Mr. Secretary. And I'd also like to add my greetings for a very Happy New Year. Happily, there is nothing to report from Colorado Springs. The center has been operating normally. We have had to process no incidents that fit within the criteria of strategic stability issues that we had started the center for.

I would say that this has given us an opportunity to reinforce our positive relations with the Russian MOD, and, along with the rest of the efforts that we undertook with the Russians to ensure the safety and security of the nuclear stockpile and the strategic communications with them, has worked out very well. The hot lines that we fixed have been working perfectly normal, as have the backup communications that we put in place to ensure that we would have this connectivity as necessary, have all worked fine.

So that's the good news. It's a very good-news story, and we're very pleased with how it's worked out. This is going to do a lot, I think, for the long-term relationship that we have with the Russian MOD and will lead further down to our cooperation with the shared early-warning system that we intend to put in place using the existing center in Colorado Springs as the training site for the Americans who will man the joint warning center that we're hoping to establish with the Russians over in Moscow.

Dr. Hamre: Let me again just wrap up by saying we have -- obviously the battle groups are at sea and under their continuing operations right now as we speak. We have air operations, of course, in the Balkans. Things are going very normally. People are patrolling. America is protected and defended, and we're in good shape.

Q: Secretary, you mentioned about this incident involving a satellite. Then you said something to the effect that we're not operating at normal peacetime. Is that a result of this --

Dr. Hamre: Yes. The problem -- and I must say at the outset, I won't be able to speak much to the details of it because of the sensitive nature of the mission, but that it is -- when the problem emerged, we went to a backup mode as we were working through the details. The backup mode is fully acceptable in terms of meeting our high-priority reconnaissance requirements. That's in place. It was only for a matter of a few hours when we were not able to process information. We are now. And we'll be back to normal operations very soon.

Q: And can you say whether this involved SIGINT or imaging?

Dr. Hamre: No, I'm not going to be able to speak to the further details of the system.

Q: Why didn't you tell us last night when we had a briefing two hours after Greenwich Mean Time?

Dr. Hamre: Because I actually didn't know last night. I was not down here. And Admiral Willard -- I got here roughly at the time that Admiral Willard and his colleagues were offering the briefing, and I was informed about a half hour after that.

Q: Were you essentially blinded in one area of reconnaissance information for a short time?

Dr. Hamre: For a short period of time, we were not able to process the information that the satellites were sending to us. We're operational now.

Q: Exactly how long were you not able to function?

Dr. Hamre: About two hours.

Q: Mr. Secretary, you said the problem, though, was on the ground?

Dr. Hamre: Yes.

Q: Where was that?

Dr. Hamre: Well, I can't talk to the details of the configuration of the system. But it was terrestrial --

Q: (Inaudible) -- where it was or what base?

Dr. Hamre: No. The terrestrial environment was the problem, and we now have --

Q: Was it in this country? Was it in another country?

Dr. Hamre: Again, because this is a reconnaissance system, because it is sensitive, I won't be able to speak to more of the details than that.

Q: Connecting this back to the strategic center, was this a strategic system that would have been involved in --

Dr. Hamre: No, the early-warning satellites were operational throughout the entire period, with no disruption or anomalies.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is there something between cash registers and reconnaissance satellites that you can describe to us in terms of other glitches? And can you characterize the extent of the other --

Dr. Hamre: Yes. I mean, those, of course, are the extremes. But most of the problems that we've had -- and there have been very few -- have clustered around the cash register side of the spectrum. We lost power temporarily at Diego Garcia. It's not clear that it was Y2K-related. So, for example, we had a problem -- we had a signal station in one of the services that had a problem not with its operations but with the security system surrounding it; in other words, the access to the building, things of that nature. We've had a fairly small number of instances like that.

A number of occasions, the computer system defaulted to an earlier operational data, and those were quickly restored. As a matter of fact, the most common phenomenon is that the computer system -- and all together, we maybe have a dozen or two -- and I would ask you to talk with the service representatives here for any specifics -- but they're very modest. But what tended to happen was that the computer didn't roll over and had a hiccup. You then just stop it, reboot it, start it again with the new date, and it worked just fine.

Q: You indicated that there weren't any significant Y2K problems --

Dr. Hamre: Aside from --

Q: -- aside from that one, and you mentioned that everything is operating normally. It also appears that that's generally the case in other countries, even countries that didn't spend the same time and effort that the United States did in preparing for Y2K, which raises the question about whether or not the United States went overboard or overreacted to this threat. And would things have essentially been okay if we hadn't done all the things and gotten hysterical as we did about the potential problems?

Dr. Hamre: Well, first, let me say that the Department of Defense is the bedrock of America's national security. And America's defense is the bedrock of stability around the world. You would not be able to tolerate any problems in the Department of Defense. This was an investment we had to make, and it was a good investment. We have had very, very few problems. As we've said, most of them have been very trivial. We have had this one significant problem. And the backup procedures that we developed were in place within minutes. And so we were able to continue operations.

I don't know that we have seen yet all of the problems that may emerge over the next several days. You've seen them in the Defense Department because we're operational 24 hours a day around the world. I expect virtually nothing. Of course, we will have a number of business systems that will become operational on Monday morning that haven't been operated through the weekend. There may be some problems there that we don't know about now. I don't expect any, but there may be.

But did we overreact? Absolutely not. This was an investment America had to make. This was an investment well worth making. And Americans should feel very good that the armed services are able to defend them today.

Q: You've been very concerned about information system attacks. Can you provide some more details on what kinds of things you saw during the rollover? And were any of them been able to originate from foreign sources?

Dr. Hamre: Two years ago, we wouldn't have known if we had problems, because we did not have in place at the time the 24-hour-a-day watch centers and monitoring capability for our networks that we do have in place today. So what I have to report to you is the activity that we see now in proportion to the baseline of regular, normal, intrusive activity that we see every day. It is less than we normally see. But we did see some people trying to break into our computers over the weekend.

In a few instances, we felt that it was prudent to simply cut off those connections. And we have that ability to do that now. But we do that every day. Every day we are skirmishing in cyberspace with bad guys. I can tell you of no instance where this was coming from a foreign government as an active cyber attack. Most of these are the typical cyberspace hacking, which is voyeurism and maybe reaching up to malicious vandalism. But we had none of that over the weekend. We did have a few cases of viruses, viruses that we'd been monitoring in a few systems. We have them contained, and we now just simply have to clean up the network.

Q: What kind of virus? Denial of service? A worm?

Dr. Hamre: That's what -- I frankly don't have the details under my belt to know the kind of virus per se. But they are the normal sorts of things. They've been cocooned. We'll now just go into the process of cleaning up the networks.

Q: Just another clarification on this reconnaissance satellite and the problems on the ground. First of all, you said you had back-up systems. Does that mean you are getting the information from that satellite now?

Dr. Hamre: No, we're -- no, we are getting information. We had back-up procedures --

Q: The same level of --

Dr. Hamre: -- simply not the same level of normal peacetime activity.

Q: So you are only getting some of the information, not all that you would normally get?

Dr. Hamre: We are getting all of the high priority information from the system.

Q: Okay, and do you have any sense as to what happened? Any idea what happened?

Dr. Hamre: I would -- personally I do not. And rather than speculate then I am not sure that we will ever be able to give you a full report on the details. I don't know the answer to that yet. We will tell you when we are up and fully operational.

Q: Mr. Secretary, is this a system that had been checked for Y2K problems, and simply one came up that you weren't aware of, or do you know yet?

Dr. Hamre: All of our systems were checked. Not all systems could be fully tested in the operational configuration. There's a particular problem for example with satellites. When you conduct a test, part of what you need to do is to establish the link and where that satellite is at that point in time and space. But of course that's not where it is going to be on the 31st of December at one minute to midnight. You know, so you have to do some operational workarounds to try to get as realistic a testing environment as possible. And I suspect that that's where we had the problem here.

Q: So the problem on the ground was that --

Dr. Hamre: The problem was on the ground, on being able to process information from the satellite. The satellite was always under positive control at all times. We never --

Q: -- worked --

Dr. Hamre: It continued to function and we continued to be able to talk to it in terms of the normal telemetry. In terms of our ability to process information here on the ground, that's where we had the problem. And, as I said, it lasted a few hours. The operational contingency plans were put into place quickly, and we are now able to conduct operations.

Q: Now, just to clarify the timing, it was a few hours then after Greenwich Mean Time?

Dr. Hamre: Yes.

Q: When you had --

Dr. Hamre: We were operational -- before we hit midnight here in Washington we were back, operational.

Q: But at a lower level?

Dr. Hamre: At a slightly lower level of activity.

Q: And you continue at a lower --

Q: Could you just be a little more than a few hours?

Dr. Hamre: It actually was just a few hours.

Q: Well, I am sure it was. But I mean can you just put a -- can you quantify it a little bit?

Dr. Hamre: Two -- is that a few? Two to three.

Q: If it's two or if it's three? (Laughter.)

Dr. Hamre: It's in that ballpark.

Q: Between two and three hours?

Dr. Hamre: There you go. (Laughter.)

Q: Can I say two and a half? (Laughter.)

Dr. Hamre: A few hours.

Q: Now that we have Y2K behind us --

Dr. Hamre: Well, it's not behind us yet, you know, because Y2K is -- will in a much reduced sense still be something we need to monitor, first of course through the leap year -- this is an unusual leap year, and so we have to monitor the transition from the 28th to the 29th and the 29th to the 1st. And then frankly we'll have to monitor even to the end of the year, because some computer systems do a sequential count of days, and you need to know that -- if you really do have 366 days that you can count to 366. So you will actually have to monitor on the 31st of December. Each of our systems was tested in this environment, and so we are confident these aren't going to be significant problems. But we are not through this yet. We haven't yet tested the full loads on the system. That will start Monday and Tuesday. Our watch centers, which are still operating at 24 hours a day, will be operational through Tuesday, so that if we do have problems we'll be able to deal with them. So we are not through this yet, and I would ask people not prematurely declare victory, even though we are feeling very good about it.

Q: Nevertheless, this is a time when people are looking forward to the new year, the new decade, the new century. Can I ask you what you -- as you look ahead into the new year what you see as the potential big national security threats for the U.S.? Is it -- are there regions of the world, or is it more terrorism? Or what do you see as the threat of the 22nd century?

Dr. Hamre: Well, that's a much larger question than probably is appropriate for this press conference. Let me just say we will continue our ongoing global commitments. We are in virtually in every time zone and have operations in virtually every time zone, and everyone should feel confident around the world that this department is able to meet the challenges that are before us and defend the country and our allies.

Obviously the asymmetric threat problems of terrorism, especially terrorism that involves cyberspace or the use of non-traditional terrorist means, is before us, and we have to be vigilant about that. We have been vigilant here during this period in support of local law enforcement, and we will remain that way. That will obviously be a challenge into the new year, but I don't want to forecast more than that right now.

Q: (Off mike) -- one specific? For instance, do you foresee a confrontation between China and Taiwan that might draw the United States --

Dr. Hamre: I think it would be very inappropriate for me to get into that today.

Q: Mr. Secretary, about six months ago you said that looking forward to the Y2K that you thought it would be more an annoyance than anything critical. We have gone through the rollover. Do you still think that?

Dr. Hamre: I do. And even where we had a significant problem, it really was in the category of we needed to get quickly in place the back-up procedures. Every one of our systems -- each one of the 2,000 main mission-critical systems that we have had to have a back-up contingency plan in place. In this case we needed it, and it worked.

Q: You mentioned a heightened state of alert. Have there been any specific terrorist threats or actions against U.S. forces in the United States or overseas?

Dr. Hamre: No, none that I am aware of. We still maintain a fairly vigorous force protection posture, but I am not aware of anything that we've experienced during the last 24 hours.

Q: Following up on that, do the facilities overseas remain on a heightened state of alert as they were in the last few weeks?

Dr. Hamre: That really is dependent on the basic alerting posture for our installations and forces around the world, and that varies depending on the location. Every one of our forward-operating locations and forces is given an alert posture, a force protection posture, and that varies on a day-to-day basis. We didn't put anything in place specifically for year 2000 other than the basic system, and it is continuing and will continue under that basis from this point on. We obviously are vigilant and are watchful, but there isn't anything unique to year 2000 that we chose to do.

I'll come back to you in just a second. Go ahead, go ahead.

Q: What about domestic terrorist threats? Do you have anything more on that?

Dr. Hamre: Well, first the Department of Defense is in a supporting role to law enforcement when it comes to any activity inside the United States. We have been asked to be ready, to be supportive if there were requirements, and we have done that. And we are ready and would be supportive if something happens. But fortunately we had a very quiet weekend.

Q: Sir, you mentioned that in the skirmishes in cyberspace that you had cut off some systems. Could -- I am not clear on -- you mean you cut off the intruders' access to the system?

Dr. Hamre: Yes.

Q: Or you turned off the system to the intruder?

Dr. Hamre: No, we disconnected the effort by the unknown bad guy who was trying to get into the system. We simply pulled their plug.

Q: Just to be clear on the sort of blanket good news, there's nothing happened in the last 24 hours that affected any operations by any units, including the satellites? I mean, no units of the U.S. military at any point had to alter operational plans as a result of --

Dr. Hamre: I believe that's absolutely right. But I just want to confirm that's the case. And each of these service reps who are here -- we had no one that was forced to change any operations. And the short-term interruption of information from the reconnaissance system was back on line, and we've confirmed that each of our operational CINCs is satisfied with what they are getting. So we're in good shape.

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