Senators Robert Bennett and Christopher Dodd have urged top NATO officials not to let operations in Kosovo distract them from the critical task of making sure key computer systems are year 2000-compliant, warning that inattention to the Y2K issue threatens to jeopardise ongoing and future NATO operations.
In letters to NATO Secretary General Javier Solana, European Allied Commander General Wesley Clark and US NATO representative Alexander Vershbow, the senators said NATO command and control, communications and logistic systems "are not immune to the problem".
"Y2K failures both in NATO systems and those of member nations could impact logistic support and force management," they said. "Y2K failures could substantially impede NATO, potentially compromising missions."
Bennett, who is chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, and Dodd, the committee's vice chairman, pointed to the US military as an example. Planning systems for the F-117A Stealth and F-15E fighters, along with command and control networks for the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, are still waiting for a Y2K fix, they said.
The senators added that 72 per cent of the Department of Defense's 156 mission-critical systems remained unchecked for the so-called millennium bug as of March 31, President Clinton's deadline for federal Y2K readiness.
"Because of the time-sensitive nature of the Y2K problem, we strongly encourage NATO officials to prominently address Y2K at every possible opportunity, including NATO's 50th Anniversary Summit meeting [on Wednesday April 21]," the senators wrote. "While information technology managers may be able to assure that components of critical systems are operational, orchestrating the broad contingency plans that would be required in the event of a failure is something only a commander can accomplish."