US Nuclear Force Is Still Reliant On 8-inch Floppy Disks And IBM Series/1 Computers

In the 90’s it seemed like every cartoon hero/villain saved/destroyed the world by inserting a floppy disk. It turns out that they were not that far off. According to a watchdog report, the United States nuclear force still runs on IBM Series/1 computers and uses floppy disks designed in the 1970's to coordinate some of its functions. These operational functions include intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers, and tanker support aircraft.

They kindly provided an example for good measure

Pentagon spokeswoman Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson stated, “This system remains in use because, in short, it still works. However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with Secure Digital devices by the end of 2017. Modernization across the entire Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications (NC3) enterprise remains ongoing.”

The Department of Defense also uses Compass. This system is a command and control system that is used for deliberate and crisis action planning, strategic mobility analysis, and mobilization and deployment movement execution. It runs on a Windows 2008 Server and is programmed in Java. It also uses a 2009 Oracle 11g database.

The Department of the Treasury, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Commerce, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Energy, the Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of Justice, the Department of State, the Department of Agriculture, and the Social Security Administration all reported using incredibly outdated technology.

command center
Is it 1956 or 2016?

The worst offenders -- the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, and the Department of Defense -- reported technology that was over 50 years old. Most departments had some set schedule to roll out new technology, some have “general plans for continuous incremental upgrades to this investment”, while others blatantly stated that they had no plans to update at all.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) believed these oversights occurred because departments spent about $61 billion of the reported $80 billion spendings on operations and managing. They therefore spent less on development, modernization, and enhancement activities. The Office of Management and Budget has identified a performance metric to measure the percent of IT spending, however it did not identify a ultimate goal. The GOA therefore concluded that, “Until agencies fully review at-risk O&M investments, the government’s oversight of such investments will be impaired and its spending could be wasteful.”