The U.S. is still using floppy disks to run its nuclear program

Updated 8:41 AM EDT, Thu May 26, 2016
FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2004 file photo, an obsolete 8 and 1-half inch floppy disc  is held in London. Congressional investigators say the government spends about three-fourths of its technology budget maintaining aging computer systems. That includes platforms more than 50 years old in such vital areas as nuclear weapons and Social Security. One still uses floppy disks. (AP Photo/Adam Butler, File)
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FILE - In this Nov. 16, 2004 file photo, an obsolete 8 and 1-half inch floppy disc is held in London. Congressional investigators say the government spends about three-fourths of its technology budget maintaining aging computer systems. That includes platforms more than 50 years old in such vital areas as nuclear weapons and Social Security. One still uses floppy disks. (AP Photo/Adam Butler, File)
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CNN —  

Want to launch a nuclear missile? You’ll need a floppy disk.

That’s according to a new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO), which found that the Pentagon was still using 1970s-era computing systems that require “eight-inch floppy disks.”

Such disks were already becoming obsolete by the end of that decade, being edged out by smaller, non-floppy 3.5 to 5.25-inch disks, before being almost completely replaced by the CD in the late 90s.

Except in Washington that is. The GAO report says that U.S. government departments spend upwards of $60 billion a year on operating and maintaining out-of-date technologies.

That’s three times the investment on modern IT systems.

Obsolete

The report says the Pentagon is planning to replace its floppy systems – which currently coordinate intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), nuclear bombers and tanker support aircraft – by the end of 2017.

Other departments were also put on notice to update their systems. The U.S. Treasury for example, still depends on assembly language code “initially used in the 1950s.”

Bringing government departments into the 21st century has proven difficult across the board.

Megan Smith, the current U.S. Chief Technology Officer, told the New York Times in 2015 of the “culture shock” experienced by the tech-savvy Obama campaign when they took control of a White House still dependent on floppy disks and Blackberrys.