American Nukes Depend on Floppy Disks and a 40-Year-Old Computer

Floppy Disks

The Pentagon and other US agencies still rely on outdated technology to carry out important functions — including some nuclear operations — according to a new government report. The report, published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), shows that a command and control unit tasked with coordinating “the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces” still uses 8-inch floppy disks and runs on an IBM / Series 1 computer — a model that was first produced in 1976. Other agencies, including the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Veteran Affairs, reported using IT systems that are at least 50 years old.govt IT report (GAO)

IBM / Series 1 computer

The report once again raises concerns over the government’s use of obsolete technologies, and the costs associated with them. According to the GAO, taxpayers spent $61.2 billion last year to maintain outdated systems, while just $19.2 billion went toward updating federal technology. The Pentagon says the nuclear command and control unit will phase out floppy disks by the end of 2017, and that it will fully modernize the system by 2020.

Floppy Disks

“This system remains in use because, in short, it still works,” Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson told the AFP.

The Office of Management and Budget has launched an initiative to replace old IT systems, but it has not yet been finalized. Until it’s put into place, the report says, “the government runs the risk of maintaining systems that have outlived their effectiveness.”

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