Nuclear systems still use 8-inch floppy disks. Why the government must modernize its IT

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In a meeting with leading business executives in early April, President Donald Trump lamented the poor state of federal IT. He’s right. The state of the aging computer infrastructure in the US is truly lamentable. A part of our nuclear capability is still protected by 8-inch floppy disks. The IRS has a system that’s 57 years old. Their attempt to modernize it was a colossal failure but the fact remains, this decrepit system handles sensitive data and still runs on an IBM mainframe that was built when Andy Griffith was on TV.

  • Federal agencies spend over $80 billion annually on IT with the majority of spending focused on maintaining and operating legacy IT systems.
  • The GAO found, “federal legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete” with outdated software languages and hardware parts that are not supported. In some cases, GAO found agencies are using systems that have components at least 50 years old.

Think about how many times you have had to purchase a new computer because your operating system like Microsoft’s XP or Vista was no longer supported by Microsoft and was open to attacks from viruses, worms and ransomeware. The government has the same problem – except they never updated. These “legacy systems” are wide open to hostile attacks.

Have a quick look through this presentation by the General Accountability Office and see just how compromised the government’s IT network is.

2016 05 25 Powner Testimony GAO by OWNEditor on Scribd

  • Arch00

    If their systems are on floppies, then the system can’t be hacked.

  • Common Sense

    There is a lot more to this story than meets the eye. If certain systems are used for basic things (i.e. payroll, inventory, etc.) then an old system is fine. There wouldn’t be a need for a high-end PC, which can easily cost $1200++ each, just to use Excel or run a simple .exe that compiles worker hours and time slots among other simple tasks. Keeping those old systems would most likely save taxpayers money.
    HOWEVER, something that is vital and needs more processing power, then yes, they should upgrade.
    I’m not really siding one way or the other on this issue b/c there is much, MUCH more to this story than a simple “these systems are old and need replacing” – maybe they do, maybe they don’t. This could be an excuse just to spend outrageous amounts of (taxpayers) money on things they don’t really need – just like many school districts & universities purchase high-end PC’s and they are never used by students or faculty!! I’ve witnessed this first-hand.

  • Common Sense

    Meant to add: some of these systems I’m sure are special systems, meaning, they aren’t your basic desktops that you and I are using. There might not even be replacements for some of these setups?