Feds still using floppy disks to run nuclear program

9:45 a.m. Thursday, May 26, 2016 Homepage

If you were born in 1960, the federal government may have computer technology that's older than you, and still in use.

Federal auditors at the Government Accountability Office found that the federal government is spending billions to maintain old, obsolete IT infrastructure, including some technology first introduced in the 1950s.

“I wasn’t even born yet and they're still using these systems, and the world of IT changes every hour,” said House Oversight Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah.

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Windows 3.1 came out in the 1990s with solitaire and Microsoft Paint standard. Some federal workstations still run the ancient operating system. Some US nuclear data is still stored on floppy disks. According to CNN, the data helps coordinate intercontinental ballistic missiles and nuclear bombers.

The federal government spends $80 billion a year on IT. Auditors found that 75 percent of that money goes toward maintenance on old systems. Chaffetz said it is costing taxpayers billions. “Something's got to change. One good trip to Best Buy, and we'd be better off than we are today,” Chaffetz said.

The Obama administration agrees. The White House is pushing for passage of a $3.1 billion Information Technology Modernization Act. 

“A good friend of mine once told me, 'if you're riding a dead horse, best dismount,' and I think it's time for us to dismount,” said Tony Scott, the US Chief Information Officer. 

Officials said the outdated technology is not just costing billions to maintain, but it also leaves some sensitive systems vulnerable to cyberattacks.

Federal agencies say there's a long list of reasons why they're still using outdated technology. Years of limited budgets have not allowed them to replace old software and systems. There are also security concerns with changing some sensitive systems.