US nuclear weapons controlled by floppy disks, report finds

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A recent government report has revealed that the US nuclear weapons force still uses a 1970’s era computer system and 8 inch floppy disks.

Not surprisingly, the Government Accountability Office said the Pentagon was one of several government departments where “legacy systems” needed to be replaced with more modern technology.

The report also said that US taxpayers spend US$61 billion a year maintaining these antiquated systems – three times more than for modern IT systems.

The actual computer systems that the Department of Defense uses to co-ordinate intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft “runs on an IBM Series-1 Computer – a 1970s computing system – and uses eight-inch floppy disks,” the report said. Pentagon spokeswoman Lt Col Valerie Henderson told AFP news agency “This system remains in use because, in short, it still works.”

She went on “However, to address obsolescence concerns, the floppy drives are scheduled to be replaced with secure digital devices by the end of 2017. Modernisation across the entire Nuclear Command, Control, and Communications enterprise remains ongoing”.

The report concluded on matters relating to the Pentagon saying that a plan was fully in place to replace the current system by the end of 2020.

The report was also critical of the archaic systems that were being used in the Treasury Department adding it was using “assembly language code – a computer language initially used in the 1950s and typically tied to the hardware for which it was developed.”

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