A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the federal government is wasting money on maintaining old technology, some of it more than 50 years old, instead of updating its applications and hardware. Numerous agencies have applications written in older languages like COBOL, Fortran, and mainframe assembly language, and in at least one case, the Social Security Administration had to rehire retired developers to maintain a COBOL application because none of the younger developers on its staff had the necessary skills.
On the hardware side, the most egregious example of outdated technology appears to be the Department of Defense’s Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which operates the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal. It runs on IBM Series/1 Computers that boot off 8-inch floppy disks. And not only are some government systems running the outdated Windows XP operating system, some are even still on Windows 3.1.
The report calls on agencies to update their systems and applications, to consolidate their data centers and to embrace new technologies like cloud computing.