The Pentagon is concerned that Y2K-related problems could affect the more than 500,000 troops stationed in foreign countries. "The Department of Defense has some concerns about the availability of services for our bases overseas," said spokesperson Susan Hanson.
About 40 percent of the 130 key foreign bases that the military is monitoring meet American standards, which aim to ensure that essential services will remain unaffected, Pentagon officials confirmed.
That number is expected to climb rapidly as the new century approaches and more information is gathered from local officials. The American military maintains more than 300 sites worldwide.
The Pentagon, like other government agencies, is worried about foreign air traffic control systems, civilian hospitals, automated security networks, and seaports.
"We're looking at those areas where we have the most forces and most dependencies on support services, like Europe, Japan, and Asia," said Hanson.
The government has sent teams of experts from the military, American embassies, the Energy, Commerce, and Transportation Departments, and the Central Intelligence Agency to meet with their foreign counterparts to fill gaps in information about specific bases and to ask about the status of ports, airfields, and other overseas sites that the American military relies on but does not control, like the Suez Canal.
The Pentagon is prepared to send backup equipment and supplies where needed.
The U.S. Government has warned foreign partners military and diplomatic measures will be taken to protect U.S. citizens abroad from calamities arising from Y2K.
As earlier reported, the U.S. State Department will be releasing a list of countries which have failed in preparing for Y2K. The warnings will be similar to current terrorism warnings posted in airports across the country.
The warnings from the State Department and concerns by Defense officials come as analysts and government officials praise the U.S. private and public sector progress in readying the nation's computer systems for the upcoming century date change, while they also worry that much of the international community is falling behind in its Y2K efforts.
The Year 2000 problem, also known as the millennium bug, stems from an old programming shortcut that used only the last two digits of the year. Many computers now must be modified, or they may mistake the year 2000 for the year 1900 and may not be able to function at all.