Nuclear systems still use 8-inch floppy disks. Why the government must modernize its IT

In a meeting with leading business executives in early April, President Donald Trump lamented the poor state of federal IT. He’s right. The state of the aging computer infrastructure in the US is truly lamentable. A part of our nuclear capability is still protected by 8-inch floppy disks. The IRS has a system that’s 57 years old. Their attempt to modernize it was a colossal failure but the fact remains, this decrepit system handles sensitive data and still runs on an IBM mainframe that was built when Andy Griffith was on TV.

  • Federal agencies spend over $80 billion annually on IT with the majority of spending focused on maintaining and operating legacy IT systems.
  • The GAO found, “federal legacy IT investments are becoming increasingly obsolete” with outdated software languages and hardware parts that are not supported. In some cases, GAO found agencies are using systems that have components at least 50 years old.

Think about how many times you have had to purchase a new computer because your operating system like Microsoft’s XP or Vista was no longer supported by Microsoft and was open to attacks from viruses, worms and ransomeware. The government has the same problem – except they never updated. These “legacy systems” are wide open to hostile attacks.

Have a quick look through this presentation by the General Accountability Office and see just how compromised the government’s IT network is.

2016 05 25 Powner Testimony GAO by OWNEditor on Scribd