The men, gathered around the computers and whispered in quiet hushes, pointed to the monitors and nodded in agreement. Seconds later, a loud cry went up as the video link showed what appeared to be a huge projectile hitting the target. Although there wasn’t a mushroom cloud like usual, there was still a flash of light and a massive explosion, causing the monitors to quickly blink, if only for an instant. The mission was successful. NASA had bombed the moon. And not just once, but twice! That’s right. Although there wasn't a war with the Martians, or Moonians, in this case, the guys in the government, tired of sitting around thinking big thoughts, decided to do something fun. The project, which cost millions of dollars and years of “research”, was created and just like that, your tax dollars were spent. So, what was the ultimate goal of the mission? To benefit mankind? To destroy a secret alien moon base? To show the rest of the world that America can just blow random stuff up? Nope. None of that. This mission was to see if H₂O was present on the moon. That’s right, the mission was to discover if there was water on the moon. Of course, the results were inconclusive, so it’s back to the drawing board!
Back on Earth, the government has also been doing wonderful things. For instance, ABC news just ran a story called — “Feds Spend Billions to Run Museum-Ready Computer Systems”. That’s right. Although an antique is usually defined as being at least a hundred years old, 10 years is ancient in computer terms. The story notes — “The US government is squandering its technology budget maintaining museum-ready computer systems in critical areas from nuclear weapons to Social Security. They're still using floppy disks at the Pentagon.” Floppy disks! You know, the thing that came before the USB flash memory. The thing that came before DVDs, the thing that came before CDs, the thing that came before zip drive, the thing that came before diskettes, that’s right! 8-inch floppy disks!
The story at ABC noted — “In a report released Wednesday, nonpartisan congressional investigators found that about three-fourths of the $80 billion budget goes to keep aging technology running, and the increasing cost is shortchanging modernization.’ It continues by noting — “The White House has been pushing to replace workhorse systems that date back more than 50 years in some cases.”
Among the vintage computing platforms highlighted in the ABC report — “The Defense Department's Strategic Automated Command and Control System, which is used to send and receive emergency action messages to U.S. nuclear forces. The system is running on a 1970s IBM computing platform, and still uses 8-inch floppy disks to store data.” That’s right. The United States nuclear weapons emergency system, probably to be used in times of extreme need, is using technology that is 40 years old, or more! The story goes on to note — "Replacement parts for the system are difficult to find because they are now obsolete.” Ya think? It is hard enough to find a working iPhone 2 these days and these guys at the Pentagon are stuck searching for a brand new pack of 16MB memory from 1992? Good luck with that!
Or how about this gem? “Treasury's individual and business master files, the authoritative data sources for taxpayer information. The systems are about 56 years old and use an outdated computer language that is difficult to write and maintain. Treasury plans to replace the systems but has no firm dates.”
Or this one? “Social Security systems that are used to determine eligibility and estimate benefits, about 31 years old. Some use a programming language called COBOL, dating to the late 1950s and early 1960s. But, it gets even better! The report noted that — "Most of the employees who developed these systems are ready to retire and the agency will lose their collective knowledge. Training new employees to maintain the older systems takes a lot of time." So, it’s a twofer! Not only is the tech very old, but the people that know how to operate the system are retiring!
The article goes on to mention numerous sectors of the US government that need updated technology, such as — “The Transportation Department's Hazardous Materials Information System, used to track incidents and keep information regulators rely on. The system is about 41 years old, and vendors no longer support some of its software, which can create security risks. Or another one — “Medicare's Appeals System, which is only 11 years old, faces challenges keeping up with a growing number of appeals, as well as questions from congressional offices following up on constituent concerns.” Summing it up, GAO information technology expert David Powner told the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee at a hearing — "Clearly, there are billions wasted”.
But, what are some of the other ways that the US government wastes money? An article at The Fiscal Times noted that — “Exploring the Wonders of a Koozie — Two students from the University of Washington were given a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation to investigate how a foam koozie keeps a can of cold beer cool on a hot day – findings that were published in Physics Today. University of Washington professor Dale Durran was quoted as saying, “Probably the most important thing a beer koozie does is not simply insulate the can but keep condensation from forming on the outside of it.” Hmm. That scientific insight cost taxpayers more than $1 million.
The Fiscal Times also noted that — “World’s Most Expensive Training Program – President Obama’s plan to arm and train thousands of “moderate” Syrian rebels to help in an allied campaign to crush ISIS turned out to be an embarrassing failure and had to be disbanded.” That’s right. Remember the whole, arm the moderate rebels in Syria debate? “The original proposal was to supplement U.S. air strikes with roughly 3,000 opposition fighters on the ground who could help the allied forces defeat ISIS[Daesh]. But by the time the Pentagon decided to abandon the program in October of 2015, the government had vetted, trained and equipped only 145 fighters, including just 95 who had returned to Syria to fight. That worked out to cost of roughly $2 million per trainee. The Pentagon insists the cost per trainee was much lower when you discount the cost of weapons and ammunition still in storage.” So, you so, it isn’t as bad as things would seem. Or something.
With the costs of living rising on a daily basis, the unemployment numbers continue creeping up (or down, depending on who is counting them), and the mega-hydra of illegal migration, election cycle, summer heat and a failing economy all having an effect on the collective psyche of America, here is a suggestion: Why not just cut the fat a little? Say, no more bombing the moon? Or if that is too hard, maybe no more training programs for “moderate” rebels in Syria, and instead, give the hundreds of millions of dollars that would have been spent on negative things, like death and destruction, and instead, spend it on positive things?
So, what do you think dear listeners: “Should the US gov give a million dollars to each citizen?”