The golden days of the floppy disk have long gone by. In fact, most computer users these days no longer use and even see one.
For youngsters, floppy disks were used to store data way before the era of USBs and cloud storage. These devices are made up of magnetic disk encased inside a plastic carrier.
It turns out, however, that despite advances in computers and information technology, the Pentagon, hailed to be the inventor of the Internet, still uses 8-inch floppy disks from the 1970s to operate America's nuclear weapons.
In a new report released on May 25, nonpartisan congressional investigators revealed that the U.S. government spends about three-fourths of its $80 billion technology budget to maintain aging computer systems, which include that of the Defense Department.
The agency's Strategic Automated Command and Control System, used in sending and receiving emergency action messages pertaining to the nation's nuclear forces, runs on a 1970s IBM computing platform and still relies on floppy disks to store data.
"This system coordinates the operational functions of the United States' nuclear forces, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers, and tanker supports aircrafts," the Government Accountability Office (GAO) report reads. "It runs on an IBM Series/1 Computer — a 1970s computing system — and uses 8-inch floppy disks."
GAO noted that parts for this decades-old computer system are hard to find because these are already obsolete.
The Pentagon has plans to update the system and will no longer use the floppy disks by the end of next year, but the entire upgrade is anticipated to take longer.
U.S. Strategic Command spokesperson Army Lieut. Colonel Martin O'Donnell admitted that despite the safety, effectiveness and readiness of the strategic nuclear deterrent force of the nation, there are works that are needed to sustain and modernize it.
The White House has been pushing for government agencies to identify and replace obsolete systems. Other agencies noted to have aging computer systems include the Department of the Treasury, whose Individual Master File and Business Master File are more than 50 years old, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Justice and the Social Security Administration.
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah noted how the federal government is years behind the private sector.
"Taxpayers deserve a government that leverages technology to serve them, rather than one that deploys insecure, decades-old technology that places their sensitive and personal information at risk," Chaffetz said.