We now know the year 2000 came and went without missile protection systems or other mission critical government computer systems pausing to question the date.
But if something had gone wrong as the world entered the new millennium, the Pentagon may not have been prepared for the consequences.
Key military centers did not check their mission-critical systems for Y2K bugs in time to ensure computer programs would function Jan. 1, 2000, according to a 1998 Defense Department audit — finally made public on Dec. 11 of this year.
“2000 is indistinguishable from 1900. As a result of the ambiguity, computers and associated system and application programs that use dates to calculate, compare, or sort could generate incorrect results when working with years following 1999,” Robert Lieberman, then the Defense assistant inspector general for auditing, said in the report.
“The Joint Centers need to fully determine the Y2K compliance status for all mission-critical systems to ensure that the warfighting mission will not be adversely affected,” he added.
Military IT infrastructure face different unknowns today. What are the consequences of Humvees and refrigerators grabbing data from compromised networks? The government’s reliance on Reagan-era computer systems? And hackers who burrow into the power grid?
With daily reports of actual data breaches, it is interesting to look back at the $8 billion worth of planning governmentwide that went into Y2K planning, which turned out to be largely a dud.
At the Pentagon, the deadline for checking and fixing all Y2K issues was exactly one year before the big date. As of August 1998, the majority…