Crisis warning system balks

A computer system designed to warn the US President and top military command authorities of major crises is not working right, according to the General Accounting Office.

A GAO report on the $1 billion Worldwide Military Command and Control System (WIMEX) says the system has failed to connect the Joint Chiefs of Staff and other top commanders with crisis situations, such as the 1978 mass murder-suicide in Jonestown, Guyana, when urgent information and communication were needed. Other sources say the WIMEX system, now consisting of 35 Honeywell 6000 computers at crucial military sites, connected by a complex electronic network, also failed to function properly during rescue of the US freighter Mayaguez captured off Cambodia in 1975, reports Monitor correspondent John K. Cooley.

One of two other worldwide information systems, used by the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), at Cheyenne Mountain, Colo., works more swiftly and effectively to warn of possible air or missile attacks. However, a study group has found it "suffers frequent interruptions due to electrical storm activity in Colorado." A malfunctioning NORAD tape system last year broadcast a short false alert, during which US fighters were scrambled in search of nonexistent enemy planes.

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