Gov’t Report: Feds Spend Billions to Run Ancient Technology

By RICARDO ALONSO-ZALDIVAR, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON — May 25, 2016

Original Article Published on ABCNews.com

The government is spending about three-fourths of its technology budget maintaining aging computer systems, including platforms more than 50 years old in vital areas from nuclear weapons to Social Security. One still uses floppy disks.

In a report to be released Wednesday, nonpartisan congressional investigators say the increasing cost of maintaining museum-ready equipment devours money better spent on modernization.

Despite a White House push to replace aging workhorse systems, the budget for modernization has fallen, and will be $7 billion less in 2017 than in 2010, said the Government Accountability Office. The report was provided to The Associated Press ahead of a House oversight committee hearing.

GAO said it found problems across the government, not just in a few agencies. Among those highlighted in the report:

— The Defense Department’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to U.S. nuclear forces. The system is running on a 1970s IBM computing platform, and still uses 8-inch floppy disks to store data. “Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now obsolete,” GAO said. The Pentagon is initiating a full replacement and says the floppy disks should be gone by the end of next year. The entire upgrade will take longer.

— Treasury’s individual and business master files, the authoritative data sources for taxpayer information. The systems are about 56 years old, and use an outdated computer language that is difficult to write and maintain. Treasury plans to replace the systems, but has no firm dates.

 

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