Government Technology Is OLD, But Here’s The Vital Question

Yesterday, a report was released that outlined what we’ll call the government technology problem.  As it happens, back was America was still great, and had the most advanced technology in the world, the government invested in it…well, the government hasn’t invested all that much in upgrades since.  As a result, we have departments running on systems that are anywhere from obsolete to impossible to find replacement parts for. To wit:

— 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. …

— 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 The systems are about 56 years old, and use an outdated computer language that is difficult to write and maintain. …

— Social Security systems that are used to determine eligibility and estimate benefits, about 31 years old. Some use a programming language called COBOL, dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s. …

— Medicare’s Appeals System, which is only 11 years old, but facing challenges keeping up with a growing number of appeals, as well as questions from congressional offices following up on constituent concerns….

— The Transportation Department’s Hazardous Materials Information System, used to track incidents and keep information relied on by regulators. The system is about 41 years old, and some of its software is no longer supported by vendors, which can create security risks. …

Epoch Times does give more explanation on each specific technology issue, and what the government is doing to upgrade and replace all of the artifacts, uh, old equipment that is either a security risk or not depending on how hackable COBOL and other languages few people use for programming anymore are.

And that the real question, isn’t it?  How hackable are eight inch floppy discs?  Can they be damaged from afar with a computer or does it take being on top of them with a magnet and a shredder?

“Legacy federal IT investments are becoming obsolete,” GAO concluded. “The federal government runs the risk of continuing to maintain investments that have outlived their effectiveness and are consuming resources that outweigh their benefits.”

The report also profiled aging systems operated by the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, Justice, State, and Veterans Affairs.

Back to ROI as a component of security.  So long as the encryption is top notch, great.  Otherwise, paper in a file cabinet might be more secure.  Yeah, it’s from the stone age, technologically speaking, but it’s not hackable.

(And we ditched the Commodore 64 in our house, what…almost 30 years ago now?  Haven’t seen an 8 inch floppy in decades.  When 3.5″ floppies came out, we thought we’d died and gone to Heaven.  Okay, yeah, this house has moved ahead.)

About the Author

Cultural Limits
A resident of Flyover Country, Cultural Limits is a rare creature in American Conservatism - committed to not just small government, Christianity and traditional social roles, but non-profits and high arts and culture. Watching politics, observing human behavior and writing are all long-time interests. In her other life, CL writes romance novels under her nom de plume, Patricia Holden (@PatriciaHoldenAuthor on Facebook), and crochets like a mad woman (designs can be found on Facebook @BohemianFlairCrochet and on Pinterest on the Bohemian Flair Crochet board). In religion, CL is Catholic; in work, the jill of all trades when it comes to fundraising software manipulation and event planning; in play, a classically trained soprano and proud citizen of Cardinal Nation, although, during hockey season, Bleeds Blue. She lives in the Mid-Mississippi River Valley with family and two cute and charming tyrants...make that toy dogs.