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U.S. debates fate of Y2K crisis center
Sunday, March 5, 2000
By TED BRIDIS The Associated Press
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 eighth 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 this week.
Now the government is trying to figure out what to do with $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 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 last 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 Computer Incident 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 computer 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.
Copyright ) 2000 Bergen Record Corp.
-- Jonathan Latimer (email@example.com), March 06, 2000