When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Here’s how it works.

Report: US government spends tens of billions on maintaining 50-year old computer systems

The Babbage Analytical Engine - only slightly older than what the US government uses

Governments are traditionally slow to adopt new technologies, and that's due to their very nature. After all, few citizens would want their taxes to be spent on unproven and untested technologies. But a new report highlights how the US government took its reticence in the face of new tech to the extreme.

According to a report published by the Government Accountability Office, a non-partisan congressional group, the US government spends more than 75% of its ~$80 billion budget every year on maintaining incredibly outdated technologies and platforms. Highlighted in the report are systems like:

  • The DOD’s system used to send emergency messages to U.S nuclear forces, which runs on a 1970’s IBM platform and still relies on 8-inch floppy disks.
  • The Treasury’s systems for storing taxpayer information are 56 years old and obviously use an outdated computer language.
  • Social Security systems are 31 years old and use the COBOL programming language, developed nearly 60 years ago.
  • The Transportation Department’s Hazardous Materials Information System is around 41 years old.

The real problems and inefficiencies start piling up when spare parts, updated software or tech support are nearly impossible to find for such old systems. For example, the report mentions that in order to fix the Social Security systems mentioned above, the government had to re-hire people out of retirement, because current employees were not familiar with the ancient systems and languages.

Meanwhile the Obama administration has been trying to nudge governmental agencies into updating their systems and platforms, but these are oftentimes monumental tasks. And even when major updates do get implemented, they can take such a long time to be up and running that what was supposed to be new technology has become obsolete in the meantime. On top of that, there’s the fact the budget for updating technology has been continuously cut over the years, with the 2017 budget coming in with $7 billion less than 2010.

It’s not clear how these major problems can be solved, but what’s certain is that the issue of technology and security requires a continuous and long-term solution, instead of patchwork approaches.

Source: Phys | Image courtesy of Jitze Couperus

Report a problem with article
Next Article

Save 66% off a two-year subscription to ESET Mobile Security for Android

Previous Article

Leaked benchmark claims to show Nvidia GTX 1070's true power

Join the conversation!

Login or Sign Up to read and post a comment.

36 Comments - Add comment