U.S. Missile Specialists Start Worrying About Y2K and the Bomb

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The nation’s missile-warning specialists at the North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs are as worried as anyone about potential Y2K problems, but it is Russia’s defense and attack systems, not our own, that give them the jitters. To forestall any Strangelovian mishaps, NORAD intends to create a “joint confidence center” and has invited Russian officials to join them in mid-December at a scaled-down command post. If computer screens in Russia go dark or mistakenly signal a U.S. missile launch, their team here can flash the word home over a hot line that it’s a false alarm before someone over there hits the attack button. The Russians, especially in light of Kosovo, have been cool to the proposal, but NORAD intends to go ahead and build the facility, which could be shared with other countries. “If they get interested months from now, we want to be ready,” explains Navy Commander David B. Knox. “It’s important enough that both sides are talking to each other to prevent any misunderstanding.”