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US nuclear arsenal still controlled by floppy disks

Missileer on floppy disk: “I had never seen one of these until I got down in missiles."
By JC Sevcik   |   May 1, 2014 at 4:45 PM   |   Comments

WASHINGTON, May 1 (UPI) -- A Minuteman-3 missile with the power to cause 20 times the damage as the bombs dropped on Hiroshima lies underground in Wyoming, a relic of the cold-war still very much capable of being fired, controlled by archaic equipment also left over from that era.

In a special titled “Who’s Minding the Nukes?” by Leslie Stahl on CBS’ 60 Minutes, the U.S. nuclear arsenal was revealed to rely on incredibly dated technology -- analog phones and eight-inch floppy disks.

A 23-year-old missileer working at the facility told Stahl, “I had never seen one of these until I got down in missiles."

An audit of the nation’s nuclear weapons systems conducted in March of this year by the U.S. Department of Energy found the safety and reliability of America’s nuclear facilities could soon be a concern, noting “that irreplaceable nuclear weapons CM [configuration management] information is degrading. Specifically, film media and microfiche are being lost due to degradation, and radiographs are beginning to stick together causing extensive damage and making the data unrecoverable.”

It’s estimated it would cost $350 billion over a decade to modernize the systems.

But an official who oversees three nuclear bases, Maj. Gen. Jack Weinstein, told Stahl that the outdated system has security benefits, as the old technology is not easily hackable. “A few years ago we did a complete analysis of our entire network,” Weinstein said. “Cyber engineers found out that the system is extremely safe and extremely secure in the way it's developed.”

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Topics: Leslie Stahl
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