Inefficiency dishonors the troops
Obsolete equipment and antiquated systems put those who serve at risk
On this Memorial Day, as we honor our troops who gave their lives defending freedom, it is worth remembering what makes our freedom so valuable. Every living creature yearns to be free, as it’s the foundation to happiness. Even though freedom offers a less predictable, more volatile life experience, the instinct to live lives that best suit us requires a government that stays off our back, allowing a culture that thrives due to competition and innovation.
For our loved ones who paid the ultimate sacrifice, we know they did so not because of specific promises of what would be, but for the potential of what was possible with freedom and the United States as its beacon.
In the private sector, our nation continues to innovate and invent, despite government efforts to stomp on business and make progress more difficult, if not impossible for some.
Yet, we’ve now just learned the government itself, including agencies charged with taking care of our troops in the field and as vets once they come home, has become stuck in the past, literally, by its own bloat, inefficiency and incompetence.
A terrifying new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) titled, “Federal Agencies Need to Address Aging Legacy Systems,” reveals that we are using 1970s computer systems and 8-inch floppy discs to run our Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs), nuclear bombers, and even the VA’s system which determines the benefits of our vets.
CNET reports the GAO exposes, “[T]he government’s technology infrastructure and its spending to maintain hardware and software that, in some cases, is at least 50 years old. The report also calls out the Department of the Treasury, which “uses assembly language code — a computer language initially used in the 1950s and typically tied to the hardware for which it was developed.” And the Veteran Affairs’ benefits and delivery network uses a 51-year-old mainframe system, written in Cobol, to make sure veterans receive their benefits.”
Consider the Fed had an $80 billion IT budget last year, with 75 percent of that, $60 billion, going to maintain the antiquated systems. This from a government that says it has no money for our troops on the ground, for our vets’ healthcare or for modern weaponry.
Well at least we now know why — they’re spending it all on floppies.
Bureaucrats continue to argue that money is the problem. They need more money, they tell Congress and yet this has been a problem since, well, the 1970s. This tells us it’s the culture of the equally antiquated federal government. No administration since Gerald Ford has found it worthwhile to bring the government into the modern age. They just haven’t been interested.
CNN notes, “Megan Smith, the current U.S. Chief Technology Officer, told The New York Times in 2015 of the ‘culture shock’ experienced by the techsavvy Obama campaign when they took control of a White House still dependent on floppy disks and Blackberrys.”
Yet, once they were confronted with this disaster what did the Obama administration do way back in 2009? Nothing.
This lack of modernizing from the supposedly “tech savvy” gang surrounding Mr. Obama shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. These are the same people who, to this day, have never finished the disaster of the Obamacare website, and never managed to get what does exist to work properly.
When asked by the Telegraph newspaper why the United States nuclear force is relying on ancient, unsupported software and technology from half a century ago, Lt. Col. Valerie Henderson, a Pentagon spokeswoman, replied, “This system remains in use because, in short, it still works.”
That’s odd. Then why is the Pentagon using computers at all? Last time I checked, pens and pencils and paper still work, too. So do telex and fax machines. The rotary phone worked just fine until some upstart changed it to the push-buttons.
Come to think of it, why are we using tanks? The horse and buggy system was lovely, less noisy, and heck, wasn’t hastening climate change on Mars.
If the Pentagon is committed to a system because “it works,” it is strange we haven’t spent $60 billion on really, really nice spears, rocks, and bows and arrows. Because, yes, those work, too.
We have upgraded occasionally because the enemies of civilization upgrade. Rocks won’t help us defend against the massive Chinese military menace. And neither will 1970s computers. We think the obsolete system “still works,” and let’s just hope no one spills a cup of coffee on the ICBM floppies just as Iran, Russia and China decide that the United States should itself become… obsolete.
We learned from the GAO report that the bureaucracy is destroying us from the inside out through neglect and incompetence. It’s clear our troops who died defending our nation paid that price because they knew this great country was, and is, humanity’s last hope. Their legacy deserves more than this, as do all of us. Tammy Bruce is a radio talk show host.