Report: *Major* defense satellite systems on the blink for 3 days due to y2k glitch : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Report from the Chicago Tribune, partial quote, fair use: (My commentary below)

WASHINGTON -- The nation's image-collecting spy satellites were all but blinded by a Y2K computer bug for nearly three days, an outage far more substantial than the Pentagon initially reported, according to knowledgeable government officials.

While the Pentagon first portrayed the interruption as lasting a few hours, in fact virtually the entire constellation of high-accuracy optical and radar spy satellites was either out of service or functioning far below capacity for most of the New Year's holiday weekend.

Though no emergency occurred, the three-day interruption came at a time when the entire U.S. intelligence community was on global alert for potential terrorist activity relating to the year 2000 celebrations.

The interruption began when a computer patch intended to avert any Y2K glitches failed to function properly, resulting in data from five spy satellites coming in as undecipherable garble.


This is shocking. The article is *very* credible given the level of detail (which would be appropriate for Aviation News, let alone the Chicago Tribune) including mentioning a backup site at White Sands. It suggests the Keyhole/Lacrosse systems were involved. If the report is correct, this shows how vulnerable we actually were. We are very very fortunate indeed there were no terrorist activities. I can tell you (I mentioned this to a defense contractor friend when I thought it was "3 hours" who heartily agreed) that these systems are a TOP PRIORITY for the defense dept and U.S. Space Command. Assuming this is correct, I am stunned, only massive power grid failures or major nuclear events would have stunned me more.

We can only wonder what is going to happen to military logistics, which (as many of you may not be aware) is highly dependent on just-in-time processing, as they no longer warehouse supplies.

-- Bud Hamilton (, January 13, 2000


Defense Dept denies 3-day failure; Chicago Tribune stands by report


Pentagon Says it Erred in Y2K Fix

By ROBERT BURNS .c The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon acknowledged Thursday that it had erred in its approach to testing a Y2K correction for one of its key intelligence-processing computers prior to New Year's Eve. The computer system broke down that night, interrupting the flow of spy satellite data for several hours.

Defense Department spokesman Kenneth Bacon said the Pentagon would have had to shut down temporarily the intelligence computer system in order to make an ``end-to-end'' test of its Y2K fix. Instead, the decision was to test the fix piecemeal, allowing the system to keep running, he said.

``They tested it in sections, and it turned out that it was a mistake because the sections didn't fit together - the sections of the fix,'' Bacon said. He said this was the only significant Y2K breakdown among the several thousand Pentagon computer systems that were fixed at a cost of $3.6 billion.

The computer system with the glitch is operated by the Pentagon's highly secretive National Reconnaissance Office.

Although Bacon said some aspects of the problem could not be discussed publicly because of the sensitivity of U.S. spy satellite operations, the Chicago Tribune reported Thursday that the computer system that broke down was at a satellite ground station at Fort Belvoir, Va., south of Washington, D.C. The Tribune reported that the satellite signals were redirected to a receiving station in New Mexico.

The Tribune also reported that U.S. photo reconnaissance satellites were all but blinded by the Y2K breakdown for nearly three days.

Bacon denied this. He said the outage lasted only a few hours before a backup system was in place. The backup gave the Pentagon only 50 percent of its normal capacity initially, but that rose to about 90 percent by the time the regular system was fully fixed Sunday night, Jan. 2, he said.

``We lost a little corner of part of our total intelligence take for several hours. That's what happened,'' Bacon said.

The Tribune's Washington bureau chief, James Warren, said in response to Bacon's comments: ``We understand that ultimately there can be honest debate about how serious this problem was, but we unequivocally stand behind what multiple sources told us.''

Other Pentagon officials previously acknowledged that a portion of the satellite imagery was lost due to the computer breakdown, and they have insisted that this did not jeopardize national security.

``At no time were we blinded,'' Bacon said. ``This has been a canard that's been thrown around in the press from day one. At no time were our intelligence collection systems blinded. That is because we have redundant systems designed precisely to deal with a variety of situations.''

Bacon said the several-hour outage on New Year's Eve was not more troublesome than interruptions that sometimes occur due to weather or other problems.

``This was well within the type of temporary interruption that we experience on a fairly regular basis,'' he said.

Bacon said Vice Adm. Thomas Wilson, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, told him the New Year's Eve computer problem had only a ``very, very, very marginal'' impact on the nation's defense readiness.

AP-NY-01-13-00 1643EST

Copyright 2000 The Associated Press.

-- Lee Maloney (, January 13, 2000.

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