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Government spending billions to keep antique computer systems running

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#1 JohnC_21


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Posted 26 May 2016 - 11:59 AM

WASHINGTON –  The government is squandering its technology budget maintaining museum-ready computer systems in critical areas from nuclear weapons to Social Security. They're still using floppy disks at the Pentagon.

In a report released Wednesday, nonpartisan congressional investigators found that about three-fourths of the $80 billion budget goes to keep aging technology running, and the increasing cost is shortchanging modernization.

— The Defense Department's Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to U.S. nuclear forces. The system is running on a 1970s IBM computing platform, and still uses 8-inch floppy disks to store data. "Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now obsolete," GAO said. The Pentagon told GAO it is initiating a full replacement and the floppy disks should be gone by the end of next year. The entire upgrade will take longer.

— Treasury's individual and business master files, the authoritative data sources for taxpayer information. The systems are about 56 years old and use an outdated computer language that is difficult to write and maintain. Treasury plans to replace the systems but has no firm dates.

— Social Security systems that are used to determine eligibility and estimate benefits, about 31 years old. Some use a programming language called COBOL, dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s. "Most of the employees who developed these systems are ready to retire and the agency will lose their collective knowledge," the report said. "Training new employees to maintain the older systems takes a lot of time." Social Security has no plans to replace the entire system but is eliminating and upgrading older and costlier components. It is also rehiring retirees who know the technology.




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#2 johnmeehan


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Posted 26 May 2016 - 04:04 PM

From 1993 to 1998 I was Systems Security Administrator in a Dept. of Justice office because I had a pc (XT clone) and was the only one willing to take on the responsibility.


The system at that time was a WANG.  They finally upgraded to a Windows system around 1999 but it still interfaced (if thats the right word) to the old WANG system at headquarters.


Before you find yourselves in awe reading the post of a government computer security "expert" the SSA duties were pretty much limited to running the weekly IPL (initial program load) from the zero work station and assigning new users acess to the local system access to the central database was handled by headquarters staff.


For most problems that I could not handle myself, and at the beginning there were a lot, I would call the help staff which was a subcontractor.  However I learned quickly and could resolve most problems with the local system without the need to call the hotline.  Heck they even allowed me to replace a board in the TCB (telecommunications box) the board which allowed communication over one phone line (in other words a modem) was as large as the motherboard in my XT clone.


We kind of had windows.  A workstation could be set up to be recognized as two or more sepate workstations that could be swtiched depending on which hotkeys were pressed.  Each workstation counted against the "license" which was a plastic "key" that had to be inserted into the system.  The key was basically a circuit encased in plastic

#3 Chris Cosgrove

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Posted 26 May 2016 - 06:36 PM

If it is any consolation, the US government is not alone in these little difficulties. The UK government is no better at managing its IT, and as for new IT projects. Oh dear !


@johnmeehan #2 - I bow down in awe !


Chris Cosgrove

#4 CurtJohn


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Posted 27 May 2016 - 06:56 PM

I don't even talk about Belgium... There's no security.

I have faith on the US :warrior:

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