Audit Slams U.S. for Money Pit of Ancient Technology

“the Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy disks in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces,”

By DANIEL W. STAPLES 

     WASHINGTON (CN) — The U.S. government is spending $61 billion of its $89 billion technology budget operating and maintaining antiquated systems, some of which are more than 50 years old.
     Some systems are so outdated that “the Department of Defense uses 8-inch floppy disks in a legacy system that coordinates the operational functions of the nation’s nuclear forces,” according to a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
     A programming language developed in the late 1950s and early 1960s even still programs the systems of several agencies, according to the report.
     Auditors saw reports of the COBOL use, short for common business oriented language, at the Departments of Agriculture, Homeland Security, Health and Human Services, Justice, Treasury and Veterans Affairs.
     The Office of Management and Budget drafted new guidelines to modernize the aging systems, but the report says some agencies have no plans to upgrade old systems.
     As the need for computer or “legacy” upgrades has increased, the budget for computer-system upgrades decreased more than $7 billion dollars from 2010 levels, the report notes.
     Only $19 billion of the $89 billion IT budget was spent on development and modernization projects.
     Other departments that are using outdated or obsolete systems were the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration.
     The 28-page report, given as testimony for the House of Representative’s Testimony Committee on Oversight and Government Reform makes recommendations, asks the budget office to draft guidelines for prioritizing the upgrades and singling out specific agencies that need to address obsolete systems.
     In the last six years, the budget office and other government agencies have adopted only about a third of GOA’s 800 recommendations to improve IT investments, according to the report.
     The report also recommends more transparency in agency analysis of system improvements by posting those reports on OMB IT Dashboard, a public website that provides detailed information on major IT investments at 26 federal agencies.