The U.S. Defense Department is still using 8-inch floppy disks and a long outdated 1970s-era IBM Series/1 Computer to coordinate the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces. These ancient computer systems are yet another symptom of the ever present “readiness” crisis facing the U.S. Military.
The 8-inch floppy disks and outdated computer systems are used to handle important functions related to the nation’s taxpayers, federal prisoners and military veterans, and most shockingly the U.S. nuclear umbrella. A recently released report from The United States Government Accountability Office revealed that the Strategic Automated Command and Control System that handles our nuclear force operations is one of the 10 oldest information technology investments named in the report.
Military officials have stated that they hope to replace the decrepit systems as quickly as possible. The report states that federal agencies must act quickly to replace the systems as they become more and more obsolete with each passing day. An excerpt from the report reads:
“Federal legacy IT systems are becoming increasingly obsolete: Many use outdated software languages and hardware parts that are unsupported, Agencies reported using several systems that have components that are, in some cases, at least 50 years old.”
The governement seems to hold a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” mentality regarding the outdated computers. Department Spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson claims that the floppy disk based systems are scheduled to be replaced as soon as 2017. She claims that modernization “is coming” in the following statement released to CNBC:
“This system remains in use because, in short, it still works. However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with Secure Digital devices by the end of 2017. Modernization across the entire Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) enterprise remains ongoing.”
Despite Mrs. Henderson’s claims the GAO report shows that pending on “development, modernization and enhancement” of federal IT systems has declined over recent years. The government is reportedly in the process of evaluating which systems need to be replaced and will be updating systems based on which systems are deemed highest priority.