GAO: Pentagon still using floppy discs for nuclear forces

A government report finds that the Defense Department still relies on 1970s technology to coordinate its nuclear forces.

The Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which went operational in 1963, still uses an IBM Series/1 computer and 8-inch floppy disks for the operational functions of the United States' nuclear forces, such as intercontinental ballistic missiles, nuclear bombers, and tanker support aircraft.

The system's primary function is to send and receive emergency action messages to nuclear forces.

The report also found that the department uses unsupported hardware and software, including 1980s and 1990s Microsoft operating systems that stopped being supported more than a decade ago.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) says that the legacy systems may become increasingly more expensive as they have to pay a premium to hire staff or contractors with the knowledge to maintain outdated systems.

According to Defense officials, the system is written in assembly language code which are much more difficult to write and maintain than other languages.  Replacement parts for the system are also difficult to find because they are now obsolete.

The GAO report says that the Pentagon has plans to update data storage solutions from floppy disks to secure digital cards  for the nuclear forces in the 2017 budget year.  A full system replacement is scheduled to be completed in fiscal year 2020.