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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

U.S. Offers Data on Millenium Bug




WASHINGTON -- The United States has offered to share early warning information with Russia to head off any dangerous military moves sparked by the year 2000 computer glitch, the Pentagon said.


"We have been in discussions with them on this," Pentagon spokesman Kenneth Bacon told reporters Tuesday. He said U.S. President Bill Clinton's administration was eager to prevent "miscalculations" if the so-called millennium bug knocked out sensitive Russian systems.


"We have offered to share or engage in joint early warning projects with Russia and maybe with other countries as well," Bacon said. He declined to identify any of the other nations.


Deputy Defense Secretary John Hamre told a Senate panel June 4 that the United States was drawing up plans to keep Russia and others from being spooked into "nightmare" military scenarios when the new century dawns in 17 months.


Computers that use only two digits to represent the year may fail to recognize 2000, or confuse it with 1900. Hamre has said Russian forces lacked a program to fix the problem by writing a new computer code, a long and expensive process, as Clinton pointed out Tuesday.


Early warning systems rely on computers to mesh data from satellites, radars and other sensors. They are used by Russia and the United States among others to scan the skies for threats such as missile launches and unidentified aircraft.


A Pentagon official said the idea for sharing early warning data harked back to control-tower procedures used by the four powers that ran postwar Berlin, the United States, the Soviet Union, France and Britain.


"It was a way of putting everyone together so that if there ever were a question, it could be easily resolved," the official said of the Berlin information-swapping setup.