USA flag

Legacy Systems and How it Affects the US Government

The US government is one of the most well-funded governments in the world. It collected over $4 trillion in federal tax in 2021, and this year, it’s expected to collect a lot more as the economy starts to recover. But despite being well-funded, the systems that the government is using are behind in the times.

Here’s what you need to know about using legacy systems and how they can affect government functions.

Legacy Systems

First off, let’s discuss the nature of legacy systems. Legacy systems are known to be information systems used by organizations or individuals that are outdated or no longer supported. In other words, these systems are old, and the company or individual using them has no intention of updating them.

The US government is one of the world’s most significant users of legacy systems. According to Forbes, the majority of the US government’s critical infrastructure is running on legacy systems. This includes nuclear power plants, air traffic control, and financial systems.

Most of these systems were developed in the 1970s and 1980s, so they’re well past their expiration date. Some of these systems are so old that the people who originally built them have retired. Unfortunately, this means no one is left who knows how to maintain or update the system.

There are a few reasons why someone would keep using a legacy system. The first reason is that the system might be essential to the organization’s or individual’s operation. For example, if a business uses an old piece of software to manage inventory, they may not want to update it because it’s the only software they know how to use.

Another reason is that updating a legacy system can be costly. Organizations may not have the budget to update their systems, so they continue using what they have.

Lastly, updating legacy systems might lead the entity to lose specific files. It would have been fine if the entity didn’t require the files, but the US government has classified information stored in these systems.

Moreover, multiple corporations have their intellectual property stored in the same systems. Many experts argue that it would require various IP lawyers to represent these thousands of companies with a stake in it. It would take years before the government could get a consensus, leading to a problematic deadlock between the government and corporations.

A stressed government employee due to slow system

The Consequences of Legacy Systems

Now that we know what legacy systems are and why the government uses them let’s discuss the consequences of using these outdated systems.

The first consequence is that it puts the government at risk for cyberattacks. Legacy systems have outdated security, so they’re easy targets for hackers. For example, many experts believe that The US government could have prevented the 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack if the NHS had updated its systems. The WannaCry attack affected over 200,000 people in 150 countries and caused $4 billion in damage.

Another consequence of using legacy systems is that it limits the government’s ability to be efficient. These systems are often slower and less user-friendly than newer ones. This can lead to a lot of wasted time and resources. For example, the Social Security Administration has used the same legacy system for over 30 years. This system is so outdated that it takes an average of six minutes to process a claim.

Lastly, using legacy systems can be dangerous as it increases the likelihood of human error. This is because these systems are often complicated and hard to use. This means that there’s a greater chance of mistakes being made.

The Future of These Systems

Thankfully, the US government is slowly but surely updating these systems. They’re doing it slowly to not lose any files in the process. Moreover, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) claims that the government is allocating billions of dollars to update these systems.

Experts also believe that blockchain has the potential to help the government with its legacy systems. Blockchain is a distributed database that can store, manage, and protect data. It’s often used to secure financial transactions but has the potential to be used for much more.

For example, blockchain could create a digital identity for each citizen. This would make it harder for hackers to steal people’s personal information. The US government could also use blockchain to secure classified information. It can also make voting more secure than ever.

The US government is still in the early stages of updating its legacy systems. However, they’re making progress and are hopeful that these updates will help them become more efficient and secure. Eventually, these legacy systems will be part of a bygone age, and hopefully, the government will learn from its mistakes.

About the Author

Scroll to Top