Q/A exchange -- R.C. and Dr. Paula Gordon -- Embeddeds/Gov U gotta see thisgreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
I posted a thread the other day entitled "What did our government know and when did it know it? [oil embedded chips problem] "
There is not a bad post on that thread. All were great. Go to the link and read the whole thread if you have the time. The thread is about to fall off the front page. I felt however that because Dr. Gordon just dropped some bombshells on me (and I thought I was pretty much already updated on everything) I figured many others may not realize and want to know also that might otherwise have missed her post because the thread was dying. Her comments should give you a greater insight as to how this gov't is actually working (or not working).
So I'm reposting the essential elements of her posts and my Questions/Comments and then her latest follow up reply so that we can all have a chance to read/evaluate her important information.
She explains the fumbled footballs by the key gov't players and how they're still not really getting the picture on embedded systems. To me its "scary" stuff and reveals an ineptitude that just frosts me to no end. What about you? What do you think? Should some heads roll over this in the next elections (assuming we have them)? Personally I'd like to have them all thrown out with 1-term term limits imposed.
Read and weep below:
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999
I have tried in my White Paper on Y2K and Embedded Systems to address question of what persons in roles of responsibility in the U.S. government have understood concerning the nature and scope of embedded systems problems. I have tried to address the question of who failed to understand the problems, and who also failed to appreciate the implications of those problems for policy and action. See especially Parts 1, 2, 5, and 6 of my White Paper at http://www.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon. I have also addressed these issues in the "Comments, Essays, and Op- ed Pieces" which can be found at that same website. In addition, the real video website accessible from the GW website has videos of panels and briefings that address these issues. The November 23 panel program at GW University on national and global Y2K and embedded systems initiatives that are still needed is also available online on video in the C-SPAN archives at their website at http://www.c- span.org. (When you get to the C-SPAN archives, click on the November 23 GW panel program.)
I recognize that this is hard to accept, but the fact is that people in key roles of responsibility in agencies of the Federal government, responsible for preventing disasters, responding to disasters, or both, have simply been inadequately informed concerning embedded systems. They have typically had no one on staff with the expertise to help them understand these matters. This includes especially individuals who have responsibilities for any of a wide range of technological man-made disasters. And some of the people in roles of responsibility in the government who now as of November 1999 have a better comprehension of the seriousness of embedded systems problems have yet to demonstrate a full appreciation of the implications that this new understanding should have for policy and action. They have failed to take the action that should follow from their new found understanding. It is as if the failure to understand technological complexities has served as a major barrier to sound policy and action.
On top of this few of those who have been responsible for the manufacture and distribution of embedded systems that are destined to fail have come forward to help educate and persuade government officials from the President on down about the seriousness of the situation we are in. And until November of 1999, few who have significant hands on embedded systems expertise have either tried to be heard or succeeded in being heard by persons in key policymaking positions.
Since May of 1998, I have been looking for people in government, including individuals in the Congress and on Congressional staffs, who had an understanding of embedded systems and their implications. I have organized meetings between people with embedded systems expertise and individuals in roles of responsibility in these branches of government. To my knowledge, White House advisors were not in effect successfully "briefed" on these matters until November 9, 1999. Also, to my knowledge, the briefings that the President and Vice President had on these matters as early as 1995, did not result in sufficiently increasing the comprehension and concern of either. It also does not appear that either the President or the Vice President is aware of the implications of the statements and article released by the Department of Commerce (DOC), the National Institute for Standards and Technology (DOC), and the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion. Neither the President nor the Vice President has made any statement since November 9 concerning the scope and seriousness of the embedded systems problems that have yet to be addressed. Indeed, the comments on November 10 by the President reflected no knowledge of such matters whatsoever.
I have found very, very few individuals in policymaking roles in government who have a basic understanding of the seriousness of embedded systems problems. And most of those who have exhibited such understanding have failed for one reason or another to initiative the kinds of policies and actions need to help prevent and minimize the potential disasters that could result from malfunctioning embedded systems. For whatever reasons, only a very few of those who have had such an understanding or who have recently attained such an understanding have tried to make their influence felt. Only a very few have applied their understanding to action or at the very least a call to action. These individuals have not been in White House positions.
In the coming months, as the seriousness of embedded systems problems becomes a reality, one can only hope that those in leadership roles will be jarred into recognizing that it is incumbent upon them to apply adequate resources to these most serious threats and take action. I describe the course of action that they could take in my White Paper.
-- Paula Gordon (email@example.com), December 21, 1999.
------------------------------------------------------- R.C.'s Response Q's ------------------------------------------
Paula, Thank you for taking the time (out of what must still be a busy schedule) to provide input on this question.
You indicated that the gov't leaders "have simply been inadequately informed concerning embedded systems." This suggests passivity on their part. In other words, how aggressively did they pursue this? I ask this but I doubt that any of us could provide a documentable answer. Your post does lead me to think that gov't leadership on this issue of embeddeds must have therefore been rather passive and certainly lacked follow through. This is amazing to me because as a layman I did quickly come to consider the embeddeds problem to be a more insurmountable issue than simply software code remediation. I came to recognize the enormity and complexity of the embeddeds problem in early 1998 (though I was coming to terms with the overall Y2K issue in late 1997 and was substantially aware as early as 1995/96. [Though I remember the issue first broached in a computer class in 1969! but we were told not to worry, someone would fix it in 30 years! yeah, right!]
My point is that if I, as a layperson inquiring and educating myself in my spare time can figure this out (and I did so way back in time) surely those whose job called for such an understanding should have done so way back then. It is nearly inconceivable to me that those tasked with the issues of Y2K would have not aggressively pursued a thorough education on this important aspect of Y2K. I know if I were in that position of responsibility I would exhaustively research the issue. In my case as a layman, I didn't have to get exhausted to pick up the necessary elements to realize that embeddeds needed special monitoring and that self-reporting was untrustworthy.
It is hard for me to conceive that presidential advisors would not have had intelligence personnel extensively research all aspects of embeddeds issues and that the results would have been so benign in their conclusions. IF this is so, then it speaks volumes concerning the levels of incompetence within the Intelligence community. I find that a little hard to believe that they didn't know. I can accept the notion that intelligence sources knew and simply failed to educate top leadership personnel effectively. I can see that political minds would attempt to ignore it because they prefer to focus upon "happy" thoughts and thus ignore vital issues that might confuse and derail their "positive" approach to solutions.
In looking at your historical recap (and its very good, I take no issue with your work) I am amazed that leadership didn't call these people into the loop until last month. These people should have been identified by intelligence sources, contacted and brought forward by 1995 at the first Presidential briefing.
I guess the bottom line here Paula is this:
If the top levels of the Administration and Congress were unaware of the embeddeds problems until 1999 then there has been gross dereliction of duty and a complete failure by top leaders including the President. They were unworthy of the responsibilities entrusted to them. This applies equally to members of both parties. This is really a case of gross negligence and incompetence from the top all the way down to the bottom.
Frankly, I suspect that the buck passing started long ago. If so, as it seems by Koskinen's statements, then that these people really have known all along but refused to admit it and have been spinning excuses for their failures. If the gov't is just now finding out the full scope of embedded systems issues it only points to gross negligence on their part. They deserve the blame. IF, however, they knew long ago and even then realized it was hopeless and suppressed that information then we have another instance of gross incompetence and mismanagement in regards to preparations.
No matter how I look at it. The government is at fault here as much if not more so than industry. It's really the case of what happens when a government gets corrupted by big business in a bi-partisan manner.
Based upon the way this government has conducted itself so far, I am not optimistic that they will provide correct leadership to solve the problems that are about to descend upon us.
On a different note: What was your opinion of John Koskinen's recent comments at a National Press Club appearance regarding the embeddeds memo he recently made?
Again, thank you Paula for sharing this important information.
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 21, 1999.
------------------------------ Dr. Paula Gordon Responds to R.C. ----- ----------------------------
R.C. I wanted to respond to a few of the very thoughtful comments you made.
"My point is that if I, as a layperson inquiring and educating myself in my spare time can figure this out (and I did so way back in time) surely those whose job called for such an understanding should have done so way back then. It is nearly inconceivable to me that those tasked with the issues of Y2K would have not aggressively pursued a thorough education on this important aspect of Y2K. I know if I were in that position of responsibility I would exhaustively research the issue. In my case as a layman, I didn't have to get exhausted to pick up the necessary elements to realize that embeddeds needed special monitoring and that self-reporting was untrustworthy."
Even comments about embedded systems that Bill Gates has made reflect a failure on his part to comprehend the problems that embedded systems failures can pose, including multiple, near simultaneous failures. One must spend at a bare minimum at least ten to twenty minutes with someone who not only knows about the nature and scope of the problem, but who is also able to communicate in understandable terms. If a person with Bill Gates' intelligence has not applied himself to learning about embedded systems, it becomes less of a surprise that persons in the government who had little or no expertise in technology to begin with, would do so. They might not even know what questions to begin to ask beyond: "What's an embedded system?" Indeed, I talked with several people in roles of responsibility in the Federal government in 1998 who have asked me that very question. One, in fact, was in the Office of the Vice President.
As for a sense of responsibility, I certainly agree that one just assumes that surely everyone who serves in government has such a sense of responsibility. It is a tragedy for our country that there are persons serving in government today who do not have such a sense of responsibility.
Quoting you again:
"It is hard for me to conceive that presidential advisors would not have had intelligence personnel extensively research all aspects of embeddeds issues and that the results would have been so benign in their conclusions. IF this is so, then it speaks volumes concerning the levels of incompetence within the Intelligence community. I find that a little hard to believe that they didn't know. I can accept the notion that intelligence sources knew and simply failed to educate top leadership personnel effectively. I can see that political minds would attempt to ignore it because they prefer to focus upon "happy" thoughts and thus ignore vital issues that might confuse and derail their "positive" approach to solutions."
I can personally attest to the fact that there are people who are knowledgeable concerning embedded systems who have either tried or volunteered to "educate" the President and the Vice President concerning the entire Y2K problem, including embedded systems. To my knowledge, such efforts began as long ago as 1995. That would be educators were not successful may say far more about the capacity or interest of the President and the Vice President to grapple with this subject, than it does with the competency of those who tried to educate them.
I personally know that the closest advisors of both the President and the Vice President have been provided materials on the subject of embedded systems since July of 1998. I have no idea whether those materials were ever read, or if read, if they were understood. I know that offers of technical briefings and invitations to panels on embedded systems were given to Presidential advisors beginning in the early summer of 1998 and again in December 1998, as well as several times in early 1999, including as late as May. The specific offers and invitations that I know about were not accepted.
In May of 1999 I learned that the President's Council had asked the National Institute for Standards and Technology to provide the Council with a kind of definitive review of embedded systems issues. Mr. Koskinen was seeking clarification concerning some specific issues. Several of these same issues turned out to be ones that I had brought up with him. Mr. Koskinen released a statement summarizing the concerns discussed at the November 9th meeting. That summary covered many of the issues that I, among others, had raised with him.
Quoting you again:
"In looking at your historical recap (and its very good, I take no issue with your work) I am amazed that leadership didn't call these people into the loop until last month. These people should have been identified by intelligence sources, contacted and brought forward by 1995 at the first Presidential briefing."
The President's Council's decision to seek clarification on embedded systems concerns did not start in November. The November 9th meeting was the culmination of efforts begun in April or May. I would add, however, that such efforts were long overdue even in April or May, let alone November.
Again quoting you:
"I guess the bottom line here Paula is this:
If the top levels of the Administration and Congress were unaware of the embeddeds problems until 1999 then there has been gross dereliction of duty and a complete failure by top leaders including the President. They were unworthy of the responsibilities entrusted to them. This applies equally to members of both parties. This is really a case of gross negligence and incompetence from the top all the way down to the bottom."
Your conclusions are quite similar to my own. Senator Bennett seemed to understand the embedded issue for a time between June and July of 1998 and early in 1999. Then in early 1999 the Senator became convinced by corporate leaders that he spoke with that embedded systems problems were not as great as he had previously been led to believe. For a variety of reasons, including, apparently, the political riskiness of holding onto such an unpopular point of view, Senator Bennett accepted the more sanguine appraisal and at times, seems to have all but declared a premature victory. Meanwhile the President does not seem to have comprehended the problem of embedded systems and the Vice President and his highest level staff seem to understand the significance of embedded systems even less.
"Frankly, I suspect that the buck passing started long ago. If so, as it seems by Koskinen's statements, then that these people really have known all along but refused to admit it and have been spinning excuses for their failures.
If the gov't is just now finding out the full scope of embedded systems issues it only points to gross negligence on their part. They deserve the blame. IF, however, they knew long ago and even then realized it was hopeless and suppressed that information then we have another instance of gross incompetence and mismanagement in regards to preparations."
From my explorations of relevant background material here, I think that we are looking less at the suppression of information and far more at the failure to both gather the most pertinent information and assess its full significance. One needs to first grasp the significance of information before making a decision to suppress it. They truly did not grasp the significance of the information. True, this is unbelievable. It is nonetheless the conclusion that my information, knowledge, and experience compel me to believe. Quoting you:
"No matter how I look at it. The government is at fault here as much if not more so than industry. It's really the case of what happens when a government gets corrupted by big business in a bi-partisan manner."
I think that the failure to understand the complexities of the threats and challenges that face the nation and the world is more attributable to simple ignorance and lack of effort to try to understand. There has been a widespread failure on the part numerous people in key roles of responsibility to learn about the nature and scope of the technological aspects of the problems facing us. They have not gathered persons around them who have adequate technical expertise. The strategies that they have developed for addressing those problems are consequently less than adequate. The problem definition is simply an inadequate one. Even now the level of comprehension of technological complexities, let along organizational, sociological, psychological, and managerial aspects of the Y2K and embedded systems crisis are greating wanting. Perhaps, if the problem being faced were likely to have only a level 1 or 2 impact on the impact scale, the approach they have advocated would have been appropriate. Perhaps, too, their optimism might have some nearterm justification if there were no embedded systems issues, and if all the remediation and testing of all information systems, mission critical and non-mission critical, in both the public and private sectors were complete and tested. Such a sanguine view, however, would not be justified over the long run since the rest of the world has dealt with the remediation of information systems far less effectively than we have. The impacts that will be felt in other parts of the world will have major ripple effects that will have the most profound impacts on the U.S.
"Based upon the way this government has conducted itself so far, I am not optimistic that they will provide correct leadership to solve the problems that are about to descend upon us."
In Part 5 of my White Paper, I describe some alternatives in the event that the current leadership of the Federal government does not rise to the occasion. There is still an outside chance that they could. It would require incredible integrity to admit their failure to understand the nature and scope of the problem to date. It would require including persons in the decisionmaking process who possessed needed kinds of expertise. It would require applying adequate resources to addressing the set of problems facing us now and for the coming months and years.
"On a different note: What was your opinion of John Koskinen's recent comments at a National Press Club appearance regarding the embeddeds memo he recently made?"
If you are referring to the questions that were asked of Mr. Koskinen on November 10th (during and after the Press Conference), I felt that his comments demonstrated that he had taken a major step in the right direction. However, this new found realization that the embedded problem is far more serious than previously recognized, does not as yet appear to have been incorporated into any plan of action or change in overall strategy. Such a plan of action is going to have to be undertaken sooner or later if potential future impacts are to be significantly prevented or minimized over the coming months and years. There are embedded systems that will continue to be "ticking timebombs" until they are remediated. The high hazard areas have to be addressed proactively and head-on. There are still many opportunities to avoid having to "fix on failure". In fact, such opportunities will continue to exist for months, if not years to come.
A major task right now is that of getting the powers that be to recognize that we are not facing a single period of time when there are apt to be disruptions, unless you consider that the rollover period as a period of time that could last for months or years.
I hope to have a chance to address many of the issues discussed here in Part 7 of my White Paper. I will likely use there as well some of the thoughts developed here.
-- Paula Gordon (email@example.com), December 21, 1999.
End of Old Thread comments
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
This is just amazing to me. Thanks for the information... I'll have more comments a little later when I can digest the info and provide a more reasoned response. BTW, you're doing great work.
-- R.C. (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
RC, thanks for your effort here! This board is info overload, and I regret not staying current on late posts on threads that interest me.
-- Hokie (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
R.C. and Dr. Gordon: thank you. That's the best summary of how we got into this mess I have read so far. No conspiry theory involved just petty politics and ignorance, and failure to grasp the ramifications of the nature of the problem.
Infomagic was right along,...it's going to be a 10.
-- Sure M. Worried (SureMWorried@bout.Y2K.coming), December 22, 1999.
Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
Couple of other maxims which are more specific to computer systems development:
"The first 90% of the code accounts for the first 90% of the development time. The remaining 10% of the code accounts for the other 90% of the development time."
"The time from now until the completion of the project tends to become constant."
But everyone said, "Y2K is different." Only in scale, friends. Not in kind.
-- Mac (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
I almost fell over twice reading this, but the second time was from laughter. What was Paula's comment again? It may not be entirely too late for the president and vice president to act but they'd need what? I think she said, "incredible amounts of integrity"? Oh, man, that was as good as anything Groucho Marx ever came up with.
-- paul leblanc (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
-- Ron Schwarz (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
Again, thank you for taking the time to share with us your thoughts on this. You are right there on the scene to report to us some critical aspects of how the gov't has handled what will now become a "mess" or worse. I for one truly appreciate it your tireless efforts as I am sure all the rest of the forum.
I did want to respond to some of your comments. Your take on Bill Gates was another eye-opener. I would certainly figure that he GI'd the embeddeds issue so your post was enlightening in that regard. I am shocked that he's not comprehended the problem. Of course he's primarily focused on software and not hardware except for PCs for small business and the home.
What I don't understand is why those in the intelligence community didn't have some top-notch people really checking this out and really educating themselves and others, in fact, becoming experts and capable of insisting that politicians at the White House and Congressional level grasp the same facts that you and I know. I mean the NSA/DIA/CIA should all have had top men researching this who could easily brief in a easily understood manner.
After all, it can't be that hard if even I (a tech dummy)can recognize the potential problems. I didn't know about embeddeds until I first heard about Y2K. The moment I did hear about it, I realized that it could pose a greater threat than code remediation. To me, it should be a no-brainer. Frankly, I don't think of myself as being very brilliant and my family could testify to my non-brilliance. :-) But I would think, that if I can get it, then at least our leaders in Washington should have been able to do so.
You did state something that I want to repeat and comment upon. You stated:
------ "I think that we are looking less at the suppression of information and far more at the failure to both gather the most pertinent information and assess its full significance. One needs to first grasp the significance of information before making a decision to suppress it. They truly did not grasp the significance of the information. True, this is unbelievable. It is nonetheless the conclusion that my information, knowledge, and experience compel me to believe." -------
I am glad that you have pointed this out. I think that this does help us better understand that this is an issue of incompetence by neglect rather than something of a conspiratorial and plotting nature. Yet, I do wonder why have did they have command bunkers and take such extraordinary steps if they really don't get it about the embeddeds? Are these drastic preparations being taken because they are that concerned about code remediation?
For a long time I didn't really focus or grasp the significance of the 'wrap around' effect of embeddeds, and just focused upon the main date factor.
This "wrap-around" issue is being overlooked by even those of us here on the forum and "doomerland" who've been focused upon the main event. I guess this may be so because its hard for me to picture how far out the problems in a given "oil" application might play out. I'd figured over a few minutes to hours or maybe a few days at most, but it is perhaps now more than just theoretical that the wrap-arounds might haunt for even longer periods of time. This is, to me, the one element that most of us have not given much thought.
Thank you and I appreciate all the work you have done and are doing. I now realize that there really is perhaps more work to be done in the embeddeds area even after the rollover. I just hope that the wrap around effect will be minimal after the first 30 days and that it won't be a major haunt for years to come.
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
You associates are posting like you already know this, but I don't. Could someone help me out on Dr Paula Gordon's background and credentials?
Thanks again, RC. I've read oil industry publications for years and all I've seen is 'absolutely no problem' self-assessments and assurances on embeddeds.
-- Downstreamer (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
Boy, do you have that right.
Sure M. Worried,
Nahh, I wouldn't go quite that far, YET. but, there's still time to get it further messed up.
Good points...a couple of them I had not heard before, am taking notes, thanks.
Define Integrity? Hmmm... isn't that the same as what "is" is???? :-)
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
I really appreciate your great efforts, R.C. Hang in there.
Thanks for your excellent work and herculean efforts in trying to get somebody to listen. My only problem is that I can't understand how you can still hold out any hope for this administration to get a clue and/or motivated, especially with less than 10 days left and their track record so far.
-- eve (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
Biography of Dr. Paula Gordon
-- John (jh@NotReal.ca), December 22, 1999.
[R.C.:] It is hard for me to conceive that presidential advisors would not have had intelligence personnel extensively research all aspects of embeddeds issues and that the results would have been so benign in their conclusions. IF this is so, then it speaks volumes concerning the levels of incompetence within the Intelligence community. I find that a little hard to believe that they didn't know.
[Mac:] Hanlon's Razor: "Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."
They aren't stupid.
[Ron:] Define "integrity".
1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : INCORRUPTIBILITY
synonym see HONESTY
[R.C.:] Based upon the way this government has conducted itself so far, I am not optimistic that they will provide correct leadership to solve the problems that are about to descend upon us.
These people are about to be swept away by a tsunami. They will not be missed. Project Megiddo has been cancelled.
-- Alan Rushby (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
IMO 'embedded systems' is a phrase which would put most people to sleep within about 3 seconds. In terms of general intellignce only about 5% of the population has the capacity to comprehend the basics of this type of technology. Of that 5% I would venture to say that at most 20% of those (1% of total) are tempermentally suited to focus their attention on the subject.
Technical subjects are anathama to most managerial types. They are not concerned about 'how' something works, but how to make it work for them (a black box you use). They are concerned about being managers, directors, associate and senior vice presidents and CEO/CFO/COO/BOD's. Technical staff are consistently classed as 'labor' by salaried management.
Further, since there has never in the history of this technology been a core technology failure which would potential effect every installation, operation or use of that technology in the entire world it is fairly clear to see that there is no 'precident' ie - no memory of a painful learning experience, to provide a motive for concern.
For most of these folks technology is something you buy, not something you understand; a necessary evil, a majic genie you use for your own ends, an obedient servant. In fact this type of 'cybernetic' technology has been seen as a means of reducing the need for 'labor' in business operations and so management thinks along the lines of 'this technology means I can cut my staff and increase my profits and simplify my management responsibilities'.
They have never wanted to understand it and there is alot of cultural prohibition amongst managers against making any effort to understand it.
Now the servant will fail them in many ways. My prediction would be that management will react to this as a 'labor' problem, similar patterns of coping behaviors and all of them will not work but will infact make things worse. The 'strike' will not be 'negotiable'.
"And everyone that hears these sayings of mine, and does not do them, will be like a foolish man who built his house upon the sand: and the rain came down, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: a very great collapse." Matthew 7:26-27
-- ..- (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
Excellent and enlightening exchange. I have a single problem with the debate about competence and knowledge that sort of ties into the "what did they know and when did they know it" question. I cannot accept that that at no time in the Early briefings was there no discussion on oil. Remember we went to war for oil not to long ago. You cannot have any analysis on oil without a review of fluid control and processing systems and embedded chips. The President is certainly intelligent enough to know that oil and liquidity are the two most important variables in the economy. He and his advisors established the "its the economy stupid" to counter his apparent weakness in foreign affairs. They may not have received open briefings but that is not the same as no briefings at all. Also it is informative to review the Naval War College assessment of scenario's to see a glimpse of the governments (or a single piece) analysis.
Aside: they sort of lump all "doomers" as wacko's and unstable and a potential threat to stability for their (our???) extremist views. That was the start of the militia's and bunker label for anyone "excessively" concerned.
The government knew the broad problems and likely received information on the true vulnerabilities and threats. They more than likely have been monitoring progress for quite some time here in the United States. They have a problem with foriegn assessments because in a mad rush to embrace technology and save money intelligence put most emphasis on computer intelligence and dismantled most human intelligence. This could explain why we look so late on the game WRT terrorism. But this limited intel not removed it entirely.
Final thought, They know what the levels of disruptions are, they have prepared contigfencies for each level, and any thought about ignorance on the subject is just political wiggle room to escape blame. We got what we paid for and we most certainly will pay the price for out collective stupidity.
-- Squid (ItsDark@down.here), December 22, 1999.
My assessment that it's going to be a "10" type scenario is based on this assumption: that unless a given system is completely repaired and tested, the DEFAULT result is failure. That is, if nothing is done, then it will fail having not been designed to do otherwise in the year 2000 envirnoment. Infomgic stressed the unique nature of this upcoming failure in that y2k failures will occur in a narrow time frame, nearly everywhere, to a wide range of systems. Consider these facts: the status of computer code remeditaton is questionable at best, even in the leading first world countries, and almost non-existent in many other countries. Cory Hamasaki has explained the nature and extent of remaining problems with big iron machines, those 50,000 beasts which really power the top 500 companies. Embedded chips are truely the wild card of y2k. They are in widespread use, and some are indeed date sensitive. Their malfunction will cause failures in oil, chemicals, and other manufacturing plants. It takes a long lead time to design a new y2k compliant chip, again assuming it's possible to physically locate it. ("I'm pretty sure it's over by that plume of smoke.") Small business' are planning (and that's being charitable by using that verb) to "fix on failure." How? With what? Why do they think they can fix their particular computer failures in the midst of general chaos? Call in de Jager for a consulation? This thread is really about how the administration is truely cluesless about the coming "mess." Why do people think that they on repair in a few days what has taken years to create?
-- Sure M. Worried (SureMWorried@bout.Y2K.coming), December 22, 1999.
Well this is going back to the 12 of October 98 and was the first time I had seen a US .gov site explain any detail on embedded systems. Don't know when it was first posted.
This is from an Email I sent out asking if anyone else had seen this.
Any comments if this is relevent information considering it is at least 14 months old?
Federal Energy Regulatory Commissiom
Year 2000 Conversion: Oil and Gas Sector--Frequently Asked Questions
1. What are some basic questions to consider when looking for Y2K risk?
Does the system:
a. Take an action based on the day-of-the-week or season-of-the- year?
b. Consider a 2-position year of '00' to be invalid? [Some computer log, PBX, and UPS systems malfunction if year is '00'.]
c. Schedule operations according to date, e.g. maintenance (files or equipment)? [Some operations shut down unless a maintenance cycle is adhered to]
d. Produce hourly, daily, weekly, monthly, year-to-date reports?
e. Report or handle timed events and alarms? [During Y2K tests, a microprocessor checking the difference in dates of two separate microprocessors, found the difference so large a 'gross control error' was thought to have occurred. The system was shut down.]
f. Calculate averages, rates, trends, totals over time, and/or take actions involving an interval of time, e.g. issuing licenses, sampling gas and fluid pressures and temperatures?
g. Implement operations in a controlled time sequence? [Programmable logic controllers (PLCs) implementing an "anti-chatter" requirement to stop a solenoid or other device from making repeated and immediate on/ off actions in a short time period may malfunction - resulting in an anti- chatter elapsed time period never elapsing. Valves, switches, ... would remain in a frozen state despite a requirement to change. Virtually all PLCs contain real-time clocks.]
h. Get the time value from a computer clock and/or from operator input? If so, it probably assumes a positive number difference between present and past time. [Some systems may not receive dates while operating but have dates entered when under repair or being calibrated. Older systems default to 1980 when power is turned off. Manual entry is required when booting up.]
i. Use or produce time-stamped data, or rely on external timed data?
j. Maintain historical status or other date-sensitive data?
Have the hardware or software been customized?
a. IT systems that are otherwise compliant may become noncompliant when macros or other date-sensitive routines external to the core programs are added.
b. Embedded hardware chips systems may become noncompliant when:
(1) Functionality is added to the chip design per customer request(non-changeable).
(2) Programmable functionality (firmware) is added after chip is constructed, e.g. transducers are sometimes modified to accept signals outside of standard ranges. Firmware may be stored on a chip or in a directly attached external memory.c. In order to modify IT or embedded systems, the source code must be available!
d. Remediation may not be possible if customization procedures are not described adequately. Back to Top
>2. Why do some embedded systems that keep relative time but do not require dates have to be considered? Systems that keep relative time may do so by calculating differences between two recorded absolute times. The base of these calculations may be some arbitrary date in the past, e.g. the date of a chip's manufacture. These systems may not fail until sometime well after the century rollover! Back to Top 3. Why do identically marked chips sometimes have to be tested individually for Y2K compliance? Identical chips may not be operating in identical environments: one may be wired to a noncompliant component while the other is not.
-- Brian (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
Man, you got that right, R.C. If they don't grasp the seriousness of the problem, then WHY the bunkers. It seems they're pretending to be more stupid than they actually are.(based on what they Say versus what they Do) WHY would they do this?
Maybe the bunkers are because they are Really scared of Nuclear "problems" (The "terrorists" behind every tree stuff they're spouting)...but they sure aren't worried about the taxpayers' safety, are they...
Thanks for posting this; I'm glad I saw it.
-- DB (tomG@h.com), December 22, 1999.
Squid... good points for consideration. I share those same thoughts Yet I do find that what Paula describes is very similar to my experienced years ago when doing PR consulting for Reagan's re- election campaign. A lot of these folks do tend to not focus upon complicated technical aspects very well. They tend to be in a real hurry to get on to the next issue/problem/mission, etc.
Sure M.... I know it may look like a "10" but I don't think it will be quite that bad. Not all of the embeddeds will fail, but there math suggests a theoretical possibility that most large oil wells could have at least one failure but will it be one that shuts down the well? It becomes a numbers game. I'm not ready to state that they will ALL fail. Not all systems in refineries will necessarily fail. But will each have at least one system fail that could shut the refinery down? There is a significant chance. Is it likely or just remotely possible? I'd say somewhere in between. I don't have enough mathematical data to present a full odds calculation just a guesses.
Thanks for posting that archived info. 14 months ago? Well, it looks like they certainly had the right info and someone was looking at it. Whether the appropriate decision makers were looking at it and under stood it is an entirely different matter, I guess. I'd be inclined to guess that this data came from older material yet, but perhaps not by a much older time frame. What do you think? Do you think the gov't intelligence people knew the basic embeddeds dilemma 2 or more years ago?
I still find it incredible that intelligence agencies didn't have a heads up on this 2,3 or 5 years ago. AND, these guys KNOW how to BRIEF politicians effectively on technical issues and hardware when it needs to be done. They know how to communicate. YET, communicating and getting understanding are not necessarily one and the same. It may be that the White House people were simply to distracted by scandals.
Thanks guys for your input.
-- R.C. (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
Thanks, Brian, for pulling that link up and proving that SOMEONE knew by summer of 1998. At top levels, did they know or not? Here's my take on it: they knew, but assumed as bureaucrats are wont to do that THEIR jobs were assured no matter what happened. And even NOW they still don't comprehend that this is going to be so bad it even sweeps away the bureaucracy. Bureaucrats, policy wonks, and advisors all trust in this cynical precept: that if they think fast enough, and are nimble enough, and make enough friends, their future is secure. They can continue living off the real work performed by the decent folk that they run con jobs on. The reality check is in the mail, guys. We're all going to get a laugh in January when you discover that computer chips aren't sheeple.
-- StanTheMan (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
In early 1998 I was invited to speak about embedded systems at a conference at the Watergate Hotel on Risk Assessment and Contingency Planning. Conference attendees were primarily corporate attorneys.
A congressional hearing was going on during my stay in D.C. A very good friend of mine, who's CEO of an investment company (and who's a well-known and visible GI) was a witness providing testimony.
After the hearing he introduced me to Congressman Horne - who asked me for my business card. He said something to the effect that his staff didn't have access to many who could speak about embedded systems specifically. That most addressed the IT end. Could they contact me? Of course I said "yes". Well ... I never heard from them.
FYI - Dennis Kucinich (congressman from Ohio - minority chair) came late and left early that day. The only question he had was whether or not Y2K could impact the ability to have elections.
I personally don't think they (govt) understood the seriousness of the embedded systems issue until too late.
It took my "ex", who's an engineer and who sold his company to a publicly traded company listed on NYSE ... that makes products with embedded systems ... that are on factory floors throughout the world ... 6-8 months to grasp what I was telling him about.
He kept on telling me I didn't know what I was talking about. He just scanned the technical info I sent him for many, many months. When I told him he could have personal liability ... he read what I was sending him in depth ... and became a believer. When he warned the holding company about potential problems ... they laughed at him.
If it took this long for a very bright engineer to grasp this, I can understand why beaurocrats have also had so much difficulty.
I'm not making excuses for the government. I don't think they were bright enough or focused enough to understand this embedded system deal. I'm disgusted how this whole d*mn thing has been handled.
-- Cheryl (Transplant@Oregon.com), December 22, 1999.
Unfortunatly I do not have a working link for the testimony (below) (but I do have the testimony if someone would like to see it). But this is the first testimony I can remember to the US gov regarding Embedded systems exculsively. Oh course it was roundly dismissed by many folks saying that Dave Hall was looking for more business.
About the same time the GAO produced a report on the status of Y2K that floored me. Its no small wonder there were alot of panic driven folks at that time. Then John K. stepped into the picture. We need a "history of Y2K" so some of the latecomers could see where all the panic started from.
Alot of it wasn't from Ed Yourdon it was from the US Gov itself. Bennett in particular was a most alarming individual during the summer of 98. (June 98, "If Y2K was today we would have no power" from his statement during the first sitting of the Senate Y2K committee)
Actually out of all the individuals it was Rick Cowles that really got the alarm bells ringing around the begining of 98.
Wonder if Ken Decker had even heard of Y2K at that time.
In Canada it was our auditor gerneral that struck fear into the hearts of folks comparing the effects of Ice Storm as a picnic compared to the possible effects of Y2K.
Times have changed.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> HOUSE COMMITTEE ON GOVERNMENT REFORM AND OVERSIGHT Subcommittee on Government Management, Information and Technology Field Hearing on Year 2000 Efforts September 3, 1998 Chicago, Illinois Testimony of David C. Hall, Senior Consultant, CARA Corporation
Subject: Infrastructure and Embedded Systems Year 2000 Efforts
Today I will limit my testimony to a few statements that, in my opinion, describe the state of the Infrastructure and Embedded Systems efforts to date. The written testimony provides some additional information. The statements are as follows: <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
-- Brian (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
I know that you are quite involved in this embedded chip/oil industry issue, but do you have any feelings on how the recent floods in Venezuela will effect their ability to continue to export oil? I asked that question on a thread late lst night, but haven't got much feedback on specifics from anyone...Your take?
-- TM (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
Thank you for taking a moment to share that info. I think I may have to moderate my initial thinking a bit and give those guys some sort of break. Still, I think the intelligence community should have been on top of this and really asserting some input 2 years ago. That is what they are paid to do. Maybe they did it, but the politicians refused to pay attention.
Wow, thanks again for further input. It seems that there were indeed voices out there "crying in the wilderness" ... so perhaps I should modify the question to "when should they have realized it." I can see the difficulties in both angles to this issue. It is a hard one to grasp. There were only a few sources able to inform. I still say that the intelligence agencies should have had an early handle on this.
-- R.C. (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
You are most welcome. I treat Y2K as a historic occurance and have saved alot of info from the last 2 yrs.
For me personally it took 8 months before I grasped the true scope of Y2K (started lurking on CSY2K during the beginning of 98). It wouldn't suprise me if that is normal. (For a non Techie) I think considering the demise of western civilization is somewhat of an alien topic, :o) Now it is getting bland.
For example John Koskinen started in Sept. 98 and behold his APEC speach was in April of 99. And that is the most alarmist I have read from him.
Also here is a snip from March, this should have been a wake up call
Koskinen meets w/Pharm. industry - meeting minutes 3/8/99
PhRMA surveyed 25 companies representing 90% of industry segment production. The 24 companies who responded all expected no disruptions in the supply of pharmaceuticals due to Y2K issues in these companies.& nbsp; As of the survey date (1998), 2/3 of remediation and * of testing had been completed. The majority expected to be completed testing by mid- year, 1999.**All respondents have inventoried their embedded chips, with a& nbsp; compliance rate of 85-90%.**
-- Brian (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
Well RC, your certainly basking in your 15 minutes of fame. You have reached the lofty status of Father Ed Yourdon on this forum. I have followed your posts with sceptical interest since you materialized here. I certainly hope you comprehend the nearly irrational ferver that the folks on this forum follow your posts with. In my opinion you have not provided irrefutable evidence of your position on oil. I also hope that you do not. If your opinions on the reduction of our oil supply are correct, then the cascading problems that our society could face would be most unpleasant. I hope that the less emotional and easily influenced persons on this forum are taking your claimed confidential sources with a grain of skeptical salt. I look foward to your next essay that you have been highly touting for the last few days. I just hope that if your going to spout the same mantra of inside information, that you also provide a little credibility to go along with it. Please do not consider this a personal attack on you. It is just my opinion that after studying the Y2K issue for 2 years,that everyone has an agenda, and there are no unsanitized reports.
-- JJ (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
I don't think so. I certainly hope not. I'm just one of many. I don't know everything. I don't claim to know everything, nor pretend to know everything. I'm simply relying on a variety of sources that I've come into contact with and attempt see what pieces fit or if they fit, and some don't, and then try to make an intelligent, rational assessment that is very much fallible. I do find that everyone exchanging inform ation, while certainly imperfect may help shed some glimmer of light for expectations. You should know that I'm not a TEOTWAWKI. I don't see a "10" coming, period. But problems, definitely. How severe? We'll see soon enough. I'll limit my comments to just oil and let you make of it what you will. IF the industry were being honest, none of us would be here talking now.
This is a team-effort on this forum. I'm just one of the team members. Gordon provides as much or more info on oil than I do. Linkmeister and Homer provide tons of info. So does Downstreamer. Chuck, Just another Engineer, and so many more. Oh, Oh, I've started naming names...and now I need to list a couple hundred more...folks that post here regularly. None of us are special or "stars"... we each contribute what limited information that we can. I hope you can realize this is not an ego thing. It's not an ego for any of us, except maybe the trolls.
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
JJ: do you mudwrestle?
-- a (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
I never mentioned anything about using anyones name. " and now I need to list a couple hundred more.......folks that post here regularly." I not looking for emotional condescending sarcasm from you either, but I think that you realize that. Perhaps your next essay will satisfy my the points I made above.
-- JJ (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
There are two quotes in my Y2K experience which, when combined, could explain what went wrong in the relationship between the intelligence community and our leaders re the embedded problem.
1. Sherry Burns of the CIA said this well over 18 months ago, and maybe even two years ago re the Y2K problem (this may not be a perfect quote): "As you get out into the population, you find that most people are expecting that things will continue to work pretty much the way they always have. That will not be the case."
2. A quote attributed to the Navajo nation: "It is impossible to awaken someone who is pretending to be asleep."
I am not saying the embeddeds will be severe, because I don't know. I have to admit, it is a little spooky in retrospect to remember the nearly sudden change in popular gestalt about embeddeds that occurred about a year ago, because things turned out "not to look so bad." Anyhow, the two quotes above, IMHO, are all the explanation necessary if there truly is a disastrous embedded problem.
-- Bill byars (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
My, you're certainly ready with the personal attacks. Tell me, do you have anything of substance to contribute?
-- eve (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
"The fumbled footballs of key government players" is an apt way of putting it.
This phrase reminds me of contributions that Harlan Cleveland, formerly U.S. Ambassador to N.A.T.O., has made to the field of public policy, public administration, and government studies. Harlan Cleveland gave an address at the U.S. Federal Executive Institute in 1975 in which he used the same metaphor. The address was about what happens when key players in government fail to assume their rightful roles of responsibility. The address is entitled: "We Took Our Eye Off the Ball." (The address is published in "Ethics, Leadership, and Interdependence - Three Addresses to Federal Executives", pp. 51 -62. Edited by Patrick J. Conklin. Charlottesville, Va.: Federal Executive Institute, 1975.)
On July 27, 1999, Harlan Cleveland took part in the Global Impacts Panel at the Y2K Conference at George Washington University. (A video that includes his stunning remarks is available. For details regarding the video, see my George Washington University website at http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon .)
Ambassador Cleveland pointed out that the particular challenge of Y2K was that no one was really prepared by virtue of professional training and education to deal with Y2K, that in recent decades people have typically been trained to know alot about narrow subjects areas and few, if any, are really prepared to comprehend the whole and put all those narrow specialty areas together, make sense of them, and, most importantly, use that knowledge and understanding to inform responsible action.
I have added only slightly to the sense of what Ambassador Cleveland said at the conference. In so doing, I have tried to sum up insights that can be found in his address at the Federal Executive Institute just mentioned, his comments at the Y2K conference, and other contributions that he has made over his career in government, as well as academia.
I also bring up Harlan Cleveland's contributions here, because he and others of his generation, including the likes of Roger Jones and Arthur Flemming were all of the same cut of the same extraordinary cloth. All were individuals of undeniable integrity. All served in government and did so with a sense of true dedication to the public good. No one ever questioned their motivation. No one had reason to question their motivation. No one ever accused them of being less than truthful. Our country has been served and served well by persons of such stature.
R.C, I also wanted to comment regarding your note to Cheryl in which you write:
".... Still, I think the intelligence community should have been on top of this and really asserting some input 2 years ago. That is what they are paid to do. Maybe they did it, but the politicians refused to pay attention."
Several points here:
1) 'You can lead a horse (or a White House) to water, but you can't make him (it) drink.'
2) No matter how on target the analysis of the intelligence community might be, they can only put that analysis before those in key roles of responsibility. If those they present their analysis to can't get the importance of what they are saying, that can be for a whole variety of reasons, involving everything from denial, degree of understanding concerning the nature of the problem, level of intelligence, interest, cross disciplinary expertise, political philosophy (what they view as being the purpose of government and the nature of their role), experience, knowledge, ingenuity, leadership, vision, integrity (again), nature of commitment to public service, values, motivations, personal agendas, political agendas, set or preconceived notions concerning the nature of the policy process, unfamiliarity with policymaking in the public interest, etc., etc.
3) I am not sure how well this is understood, but the intelligence community has for several decades been constrained from doing anything but non-prescriptive analysis. They can do scenarios, but as I understand it, they cannot offer analysis in a form that can be construed as being prescriptive. "Being prescriptive" has come to equate in the mind of lawmakers with "making policy" and being overtly "political" in the most narrow and self serving sense of the word. The intelligence community is constrained from being prescriptive in a high minded way that would be of help to persons at the helm of government. The intelligence community is constrained (currently by law) from making the kind of full contribution that they could conceivably make to the intelligent shaping and implementation of policy. It is also my understanding the intelligence community cannot suggest the course or courses of action that they think should be considered on their analysis and judgment. In my view, the expertise and understanding of the intelligence community is therefore being unduly limited by law and the nation is not being well served. The intelligence community is not free to contribute as they could to the efforts of the President or other government officials in a way that could help them address a complex set of challenges and threats. They are not free to exhort the President or other government officials to recognize when a complex set of challenges and threats endangers national security and must be addressed. The Senate acted decades ago to hornswaggle our intelligence community out of fear of its use for narrow political purposes. As a result, the intelligence community can know more than anyone else in the government about a problem, but they are not in a position to be full partners in contributing to the policy making process and helping the President and key policymakers as fully as they could in recognizing the realities of a situation, or the implications of any of a range of different actions or approaches that could be taken to address matters of gravest national security. (See the March 5, 1999 Senate testimony and October testimony of Lawrence Gershwin of the CIA for an excellent example of the perspective, knowledge, and wisdom of a member of the intelligence community whose contributions have apparently gone unheard and unheeded by the President and his advisors.)
One other comment in response to a mention that was made elsewhere in this thread concerning the work done by the Naval War College. From close range, I can report that there is no rational grand plan based on any commonly held set of assumptions and perspectives emanating from any part of the government or any government affiliated "think tank". Indeed the level of understanding and the differences in perspectives that can be found among people in the different departments and agencies of the Executive Branch and in Congress can translate anywhere between a 1 and an 8 or 9 on the impact scale. There may be some who would register higher than that; I'm not sure. Of course those on the high end of the scale are few and far between. I should note that these are my own assessments and made on the basis of statements on and off the public record.
It took me several years of being working in around government in Washington, to digest the fact that what one learns about government and assumes about government is rarely captured in texts or by those in the media. Even people who have relatively extensive but narrow experience in one or two agencies or offices in the government can harbor erroneous notions concerning the wide diversity of organizational and professional cultures that can be found in government. Indeed such diversity can be found within a single agency or department as well as within the government as a whole. In fact, I can think of more than one agency that can be likened to as a group of foreign countries that have no diplomatic relations.
I have tried in my White Paper to explain how the Federal government has dropped the ball on the Y2K and embedded systems crisis, why they don't even recognize it as a crisis. The fuel shortage that we can expect will rival that of the '70s. That set of "problem threads" alone should have caught their attention by now.
I have also tried to suggest in my White Paper and in other writing that appears on my GW website, and in the real video website (linked to the GW website) what the government should be doing, how it should be organizing to address the most daunting set of converging problem threads ever facing any nation, let alone the world. I hope that those of you who have not had a chance to take a look at this work will do so. I think that the recommendations made there will be relevant for years to come since the convergence of the problems will likely be with us for not just months, but years to come.
-- Paula Gordon (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
To aide me as much as anyone else, here are links to some of the other threads:
What did our government know and when did it know it? [oil embedded chips problem]-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 20, 1999
Am I right? Do embedded systems mean near certain TEOTWAWKI??-- Orson Wells (email@example.com), December 22, 1999
Subject: Gulf Oil Exports in Doubt -- Bloomberg-- Greg Bittner (Greg@Bittner.net), December 21, 1999
And a reference to infomagic writings (one more review before rollover?): Infomagic?? -- Ed (firstname.lastname@example.org), November 11, 1999
WRP 100 Infomagic
WRP 103 - Infomagic, part II
WRP 106 - Why Infomagic is a Pollyanna + Infomagic Responds to his Critics
WRP 107 - Infomagic III
-- Linda (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
R.C. & Paula: Last January(1999), I watched a C Span program with Senator Bennet's committee questioning and getting a briefing from the CIA, State Dept., Commerce Dept. and Gartner Group. It effected me enough to make my wife get up at 3 AM the next morning to see a replay. Since that time we have been preparing. That was before we ever started lurking here for further "education". My point is if I, Joe Sixpack, can be effected by that briefing that much, how much more the people that get the more in-depth briefing should be effected? If the CIA, DOS & DOC were willing to say what they did in a public meeting how much more serious was it? I believe too many people have faulted our intell community unfairly. If the leadership chooses not to believe them or disregards them for whatever reason, the messenger should not necessarily be shot IMO.
-- Neil G.Lewis (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 22, 1999.
You might be interested in knowing that I have politely asked RC on several occasions if he could provide some verification of his purported background (Dan the Power Man was asked the same by the more pessimistically-minded a while back). To my knowledge he has not addressed my question. Consequently, I do tend to take his posts with a grain of salt.
I also haven't heard back about RC's contention (contained in an early Aug 99 thread) that some of his contacts had reported problems with a 9/9/98 date bug.
-- Johnny Canuck (email@example.com), December 22, 1999.
You make excellent points there. It does make sense. I've seen that very sort of mindset among those whom I associated with in prior election campaigns in the 1980s. Your assessment makes perfectly good sense as I've seen it work that way first hand, albeit more than a decade ago.
You might want to take a good look at other posts now coming up elsewhere, as others are now posting on other threads in other discussions this same subject of when and how much. Some of those posts seem to indicate that maybe our top Administration officals and members of Congress did indeed know. Now maybe, they're like us, in that they've been batted about by the corporate spin meisters? I don't know. I thought I had a pretty good idea until I raised the issue here in the last couple of days. Now, I'm not so sure. What you say makes sense. Other posters are presenting other documents that indicate a much earlier date of sufficient knowledge on embeddeds so I'm kind of in neutral ground again.
Perhaps it doesn't matter. Or does it? I'm not sure we'll arrive at an answer here. Maybe it will take another Congressional inquiry. :-)
Anyway...I hope you don't think I'm taking issue with you. I find everyone's comments helpful and fascinating. I know I'm learning, I hope we all are. Somehow, it seems we're still putting all the pieces together. We still have a ways to go.
By the way, has your research indicated a sufficient level of difference between embeddeds applied for manufacturing versus those used by the Electrical Utilities that would confirm the electric utilities claims that embeddeds are no problem for their industry?
Oh, Keep up the great work too. I wish there were a thousand more like you inside the beltway working on this issue.
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 23, 1999.
R.C. and Squid,
I neglected to respond to some issues that you raised, including one concerning "bunkers" and another concerning the government's preparation for contingencies. Here are some thoughts focusing on these issues as they relate especially to the Information Coordination Center (ICC) of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.
When is a "bunker" a "bunker"? If the ICC is not a "bunker", what it is?
Actual "bunkers" would never be situated on the upper floors of an office building in downtown Washington within two blocks of the White House. The ICC cannot be viewed as a bunker for this as well as other reasons. The ICC is intended to serve as a focal point for information retrieval and dissemination and as a communications center. It is not intended to serve as a command and control center. It will however be maintaining communication with a wide range of command and control centers. It will be gathering information from them and providing information to them.
The ICC includes an auditorium for press briefings and a press room with provisions for media interviews and live broadcasts. Work space is also provided for Center staff which is to number over 200 for the rollover period and the week immediately following.
What kind of contingencies is the ICC preparing for?
Contingency plans can reflect very different scenarios. Ideally contingency plans should be drawn up with a range of possible scenarios in mind. Contingency planners should ideally take into consideration different ways in which the future might unfold. The following remarks concerning the status of ICC's contingency plans are based on a site visit to the ICC in mid-December and on conversations before and since with several individuals who either work at the ICC or are in the government and familiar with what is going on there.
Apparently there are no contingency plans in place concerning what the role of the ICC would be if Y2K turns out to have a higher impact than a 2 on the impact scale. One of the people I spoke with was quite emphatic about there being no discernible contingency plans in place for ICC in the event the impacts from Y2K are significantly greater than that.
Y2K-related contingency plans are presumably in place throughout the government in all the different agencies and departments. Some of the agencies and departments that could play particularly important roles include the Department of Defense, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Agency, the Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department, the Department of Transportation (including the FAA and the Office of Pipeline Safety), the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Department of Justice. Each has been charged with doing some form of contingency planning. There is however no indication that the contingency planning that has been done has been based on any commonly arrived at consensus concerning possible scenarios that could unfold. In fact the highest level officials in the different agencies and departments hold widely different perspectives concerning the likely range of scenarios that could be expected and should be planned for. Officials in some of these agencies and departments have only been considering scenarios that would fall within the lowest levels of the impact rating scale. These same individuals also appear to be very low on the learning curve when it comes to embedded systems and what could happen as a result of embedded systems-related failures.
Other agencies and departments are much higher on the impact scale. Some of these are also much higher on the learning curve regarding the threats and challenges posed by embedded systems.
The ICC's contingency planning appears to be rudimentary and based on least case scenarios only. Generators were already in place since the same floors previously housed the Secret Service. There will be some cots and some Meals-Ready-to-Eat for staff in the event these are needed. The Deputy Director that I question gave no indication what the size of the food supply might be for the staff.
Current plans call for the ICC ending its full operation by the end of the first week of January. After that time, a minimum core staff will stay on through March and the staff size will be increased again if there is a need.
From these plans, it is easy to see that the ICC's operations are not based on an indepth understanding of the problem. The ICC is not viewing Y2K as a crisis. They are not envisaging themselves in any kind of major mitigative role involving direct action. Their primary reasons for being are
~ to compile information that can inform the action of the various agencies and departments of government and
~ to keep the public apprised of what is going on through the media at the same time.
The information that the ICC shares with the media is intended to help the media and the public assess how serious the problems are.
The ICC itself has no command and control responsibilities. Neither does the ICC appear to have any responsibilities for acting on the information that they gather. They are not responsible for ensuring that action is taken to prevent or intervene in the early stage of an emerging problem. Their role is to alert others who are in such roles of responsibility.
Their role seems to me to be unduly limited, particularly when one considers the large investment that has gone into creating and operating this center. Information can never be an end itself. The ICC's efforts are focused more on information, rather than action. This limited focus reminds me of the Will Rogers' saying that goes something like this:
What good does it do to be able to see the railroad train coming from a distance if you are sitting on the tracks?
The government still needs a crisis-oriented, proactive office that addresses the current crisis in a comprehensive way. If called upon to do so, the ICC may not be possible to readily transform itself into such a crisis-oriented, proactive effort. Such an office would focus on preventing and minimizing impacts. It addition, it would be involved in a major way with the orchestration of response and recovery efforts. The efforts of such an office would also need to include promoting ongoing and full scale preparedness efforts as well as a continuing focus on contingency planning. Both would be needed in light of the range of problems that will likely be emerging over the course of the months as well as years to come.
In addition the same proposed office needs to foster and help facilitate implementation of the policies and approaches to address the need for ongoing assessment, remediation, and testing. I have described such an office in Part 3 of my White Paper which can be found at http://www.gwu.edu/~y2k/keypeople/gordon.
The ICC is designed to perform in none of these ways at present. The ICC gathers information from the Federal agencies and from the rest of the public sector as well as the private sector. It conveys information to the media and the public concerning what happens. Its purposes are obviously far more narrow. A major purpose appears to be that of serving as a trustworthy source of information concerning the full range of events that occur. Another purpose may also be that of quickly quelling rumors.
The focus of the ICC is described in press releases as being on "systems operations". The "operations" being tracked seem to run the gamut from the relatively innocuous to the potentially catastrophic. I asked an official at the ICC whether or not they would be giving highest priority and attention to the most serious kinds of concerns, such as nuclear-related events, chemical plant disasters, refinery and pipeline explosions, etc. He said that such priorizing would be up to the agencies who would be reporting such matters to the ICC.
The ICC has been engaged in establishing some baseline data concerning the non-Y2K-related incidents that have occurred in the past and that in normal times would be expected to occur in the future. Y2K-related events will be reported in light of this baseline data.
The ICC will also be working with the Cyber Assurance National Information Center that has as its focus cyberspace-related concerns that could pose a threat to national security.
Quoting from R.C.
"...I do wonder why have did they have command bunkers and take such extraordinary steps if they really don't get it about the embeddeds? Are these drastic preparations being taken because they are that concerned about code remediation?"
This fifty million dollar information gathering and communications center has both internal government functions and public affairs and media relations functions. The highest of values appears to be placed on information as if compiling and getting information out was a goal in and of itself. Their efforts may well be aimed at convincing the public that the Y2K problem was indeed adequately addressed. And that since the problem was adequately addressed, the unbiased information that they provide should help assure the public that the government's assessment of the situation was a correct one and that there is no reason to become alarmed. In the event that there are significant impacts in the first week, the role of the ICC will likely be to help assure the public that whatever problems emerge that they are being addressed.
The ICC seems to be placing the highest priority on assuring the public and they seem to believe that an absence of major events will allow them to do that. I do not believe that they have seriously considered the possibility of impacts on the scale of greater than 4 or 5. I also do not think that they have considered the possibility that Bhopal- or Chernobyl-type disasters might occur in the United States. The disaster that they are trying to prevent is mass panic. They believe that manifestations of such panic could have severe repercussions involving banks and financial markets. They also think that people would engage in panic buying of supplies. They seem to be banking on their ability to keep the public assured however bad the impacts are. They fervently hope and seem to believe that the impacts will certainly not be above a 3 or a 4 in the U.S. (By the way, for those who are not familiar with the meaning of these different levels of the impact scale, you will find a copy of the scale in Part 1 of my White Paper.)
The ICC is leaving it to others in the government to determine the actions that should be taken in response to the disruptions and disasters that might occur.
Another indicator of the problem definition that they are using is that they do not appear to be planning on any continuing role in the ongoing remediation and testing efforts that need to be continued.
Quoting from Squid:
".... They know what the levels of disruptions are, they have prepared contingencies for each level, and any thought about ignorance on the subject is just political wiggle room to escape blame. We got what we paid for and we most certainly will pay the price for our collective stupidity."
I have tried to provide abundant evidence concerning the status of the understanding of Y2K and embedded systems by the President, the Vice President, and Mr. Koskinen. I have tried to do this in the TB 2000 threads as well as in various parts of my White Paper (see the web address above). Reading the recent statements of the President (November 10 at the White House) and Mr. Koskinen (November 10 and December 14 at the National Press Club) should provide further evidence of the status of their undertanding. As regards contingency planning, to the best of my knowledge neither the ICC nor the other agencies and departments of government have prepared for contingencies "for each level". In the '80s at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, there was a disinclination among those engaged in nuclear attack preparedness planning to fully (or realistically) consider worst case scenarios. No less so today, there seems to be a natural disinclination to consider scenarios that might involve multiple simultaneous infrastructure disruptions along with technological disasters, accompanied by other civil unrest and other societal impacts. It is a daunting task to contemplate such dire possibilities.
As regards any commonly held agreement concerning possible scenarios, there is no indication that there has been a common acceptance on the part of the different agencies and departments of government of the Naval War College's scenarios, or, for that matter, of any other vaguely similar set of scenarios. In addition, statements made by highest level officials in the various agencies and department provides no evidence of any universal familiarity with such scenarios. By no means have all agencies and departments of the government based their contingency planning efforts on the same set of scenarios. Some appear to be using scenarios that involve the lower levels of the impact scale. The scenarios of some others have focused on the higher levels of the impact scale. As in the rest of the society, officials in the government have widely varying points of view concerning what the impacts of Y2K might be.
-- Paula Gordon (email@example.com), December 23, 1999.
Again, thank you for taking the time to present the case for who knew what, when and where. There seems to be strong documented conflicting indications from sworn testimony and official statements that really could make a strong case for a full and appropriate understanding fairly early on. It may be that they knew and understood but were persuaded later that it was overblown only to recently learn that it was not. Maybe this is indeed the most telling aspect of the story.
On bunkers, thanks for the clarification on the Fed location. I was under the impression that it was in a bunker setting. I may have confused their location with that of FEMA. I do remember hearing that the NYC and LA bunkers are underground. I also think some states had similar underground facilities for Command and Control.
Oh, I am so glad that you took a moment to discuss the Fed planning for contingency levels. Very interesting.
-- R.C. (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 23, 1999.
Maybe I'm wrong, but I remember reading a month or two ago about a $40million Bunker 1 block from the White House and a $50million "communications" center two blocks from the WH. The Two are not the same. But of course, maybe the Bunker has been "spun" into Never-Never Land by now.
-- DB (tomG@h.com), December 23, 1999.
Same place: the Information Communication Center. It was being funded at the 40 million dollar level. It is now being funded at the 50 million dollar level. There is one full block between the Old Executive Office Building (a building to the east of the White House) and the cross streets of the block that has the building that the ICC is in. Technically, it is more than one full block from the actual White House.
-- abc (email@example.com), December 23, 1999.
abc, thanks for the info; I was hoping someone would reply. Just for my own peace of mind. Maybe that's it, that I was reading reports that made it sound like two different facilities.
But this Communications Center sure seems vulnerable to attack. Can't help but believe that they have a Real Bunker elsewhere. And that it's the One they prefer not to advertise.
-- DB (tomG@h.com), December 23, 1999.