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finally a good analysis of the weaponry situation.. surprised
it has taken this long for anyone to write something like this.
hopefully most weaponry systems will have failsafe mechanisms
that prevent them from being shot off. in other words, they
will malfunction, they will not work or be launchable.. worst
case scenario of course is that they launch..!!  the analogy
is sort of like with stop lights. how horribly will they fail?
for example stop lights could fail and just blink in all 4
directions, or they could be green in all 4 directions.. both
are a failure, but the latter is more like a "catastrophic"
failure.. with weapons, inoperability is a failure, launching
is a catastrophic failure.

------- Forwarded Message

Delivered-To: [email protected]
From: Carolyn Langdon <[email protected]>
Subject: Y2K and Nuclear Weapons Command
Date: Wed, 9 Dec 1998 16:25:51 -0500
Organization: St Lawrence Centre for the Arts
Encoding: 119 TEXT

Science for Peace
Media Release
For immediate release - December 1998

Y2K and Nuclear Weapons Command and Control Systems

Toronto - There are over 35,000 nuclear weapons remaining in the world
today.  These arsenals contain the destructive power of 650,000 Hiroshima
bombs. Thousands of these weapons, mostly land-based ballistic missiles and
submarine launched missiles are in a state of ready deployment.  That is
their warheads, which contain the nuclear fissile material, are attached to
their delivery systems.

Computers have become increasingly central to nuclear operations but they
have not been without their glitches and serious flaws. During the Cold War
computer malfunctions produced several serious false alarms of missile
attacks, and during the Gulf War computer malfunctions contributed to the
failings of the Patriot anti-missile system.

"Both Russia and the U.S. are believed to have a "launch on warning"
policy, so that a retaliatory launch is made after an adversary's missile
is detected, and before the warhead impacts.  Thus a single accidental or
unauthorized launch could result in wholesale nuclear war." says Dr. Alan
Phillips of Science for Peace.

"When you factor in the Y2K computer problem an already dangerous situation
becomes untenable", says Calvin Gotlieb from Science for Peace.  "A Y2K
meltdown in the nuclear systems of any one of the nuclear countries - the
U.S., Russia, China, France, Britain, India, Pakistan and Israel (an
undeclared nuclear state) would spell disaster."

Dr. Barbara Simons, President of the Association for Computing Machinery
"I am not going to worry about whether or not my VCR might become confused
on 1/1/00.  The worst case scenario is not especially bad.  I am, however,
going to worry about whether or not a computer that controls a major
weapons system becomes confused on 1/1/00."

Research findings by a number of different agencies and experts, both
inside and outside the U.S. Dept. of Defense (DOD), show "no confidence" in
the Pentagon's present program to meet the Year 2000 challenge.  The DOD
weapons systems utilize millions of 'embedded systems' in the form of
microchips and microprocessors.  U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense John
Hamre has admitted that, "everything is so interconnected, it's very hard
to know with any precision that we've got it fixed."  This was the U.S.
state of affairs after 2 billion dollars had been spent trying to fix it.
 There is little information coming out of Russia about their progress with
Y2K problems, but we can safely surmise that all can't be well given their
diminished resources.

David Parnas, the NSERC/Bell Industrial Research Chair in Software
Engineering at McMaster University is concerned about the risks posed by
the Y2K computer problem and nuclear systems. He says that, "The US
military establishment is heavily dependent on computers for communication,
intelligence and for control of weapons.  Computer programs are very
complex constructions.  When a problem is discovered it often takes weeks
to fix.  Often the "fixed" program is still not right and requires further
repair after the revised program is put into service.  Sometimes, programs
that are not date sensitive exchange dates with programs that are and will
fail when those 'partner' programs fail."

The Fail Safe Solution:

All nuclear weapons states need to disconnect their nuclear warheads from
their delivery systems to eliminate the risk of nuclear war by
miscalculation, accident, or the Y2K problem. With proper planning and
sufficient lead-time, it is technically feasible.  In 1991, in the wake of
the coup attempt in the Soviet Union, Presidents Bush and Gorbachev took
thousands of nuclear weapons off deployment in a short period of time.  The
most difficult problem will be providing safe storage for the thousands of
warheads from land-based missiles.  In view of the risks involved in
leaving weapons on ready alert, this difficulty can be easily overcome if
governments start planning now.

We need to hear from NATO, the U.N. and Congress that a multilateral
approach to the Y2K problem is being coordinated.  To date there has been
near silence.  Time is running out for a coordinated approach.

Similar views to those of Science for Peace are held by individual computer
scientists and nuclear physicists, organizations like the Institute for
Energy and Environmental Research and the British American Security
Information Council, both based in the U.S., and Physicians for Global
Responsibility among others.

- - - 30 -
For more information please contact:

Science for Peace Board members:

Dr. Alan Phillips, Science for Peace & Physicians for Global Survival,
Calvin Gotlieb, Professor Emeritus, Dept of Computer Science, U of T
T. 416-978-2986 or 416-482-4509
David Parnas, P.Eng., NSERC/Bell Industrial Research Chair in Software
Engineering, Dept. of Computing and Software, Faculty of Engineering at
McMaster University 905-525-9140x27353 or 905-648-5772

Barbara Simons, President of the Association for Computing Machinery
([email protected])
Arjun Makhijani, Institute for Energy and Environmental Research (U.S.)

For further information on the Y2K issue and other related nuclear issues
see the Science for Peace website at:   www.math.yorku.ca/sfp/

Science for Peace is located at University College, 15 King's College
University of Toronto M5S 3H7 Canada.  Tel. 416-978-3606.