What to do with a $50 million Y2K crisis center?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WASHINGTON TODAY: What to do with a $50 million Y2K crisis center? 2.01 a.m. ET (0701 GMT) March 3, 2000 WASHINGTON  Born out of fear that the New Year's date rollover would wreak havoc on the world's computers, the government's $50 million Y2K command center isn't commanding much these days.

The Y2K threat fizzled, and the computerized crisis center, located on the 8th floor of a nondescript downtown building a few blocks from the White House, is preparing to close by month's end. Its final task was watching for any computers stumbling over leap day earlier this week.

Now the government is trying to figure out what to do with some $9 million in equipment that filled the center, including high-end computers, expensive plasma conference screens and digital maps showing global time zones.

"You have to remember this place started at ground zero,'' said John Koskinen, President Clinton's top Y2K expert.

There is general consensus that the impressive network the government built to closely monitor the nation's most important computer systems shouldn't be dismantled at a fire sale.

Indeed, Washington is in the midst of a close self-examination over how it can protect the country's critical computer networks -- such as power, communications and banking systems -- from electronic assaults, technical failures or natural disasters.

The Y2K monitoring network, which won high praise among participants, appears an obvious element of that plan. But still in its formative stages, the watch effort is spread among agencies that include the General Services Administration, Commerce and Justice departments and the National Security Council.


A decision had been expected this week from the White House Office of Management and Budget, but the choice is "more complicated than it might otherwise appear,'' Koskinen said. "There are different options and alternatives that have both cost implications as well as operating implications.''

GSA, for example, runs the Federal Computerncident Response Capability, dubbed FedCIRC, which answers pleas from agencies that have been hacked or electronically overwhelmed.

The Critical Infrastructure Assurance Office, a part of the Commerce Department, studies the government's own risks in relying on outside commercial networks. Justice oversees the FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center, which monitors attempts at cyber espionage, terrorism and hacking.

One thing is certain: Koskinen won't be taking an official role. After leading the nation's Y2K preparations for nearly two years, he's considering his next job but is confident it won't be in the federal government.

At the end of his final news conference this week, Koskinen's technical crew flashed an image on those expensive plasma conference screens showing him and his colleagues walking into a sunset.

"I've often said, sometimes with pleasure depending on the day, that I have one of the few sun-setting jobs in the government,'' Koskinen said.

-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), March 03, 2000

Moderation questions? read the FAQ