In­ef­fi­ciency dis­hon­ors the troops

Ob­so­lete equip­ment and an­ti­quated sys­tems put those who serve at risk

The Washington Times Weekly - - Commentary - By Tammy Bruce

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.

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