If you thought the bungled rollout of HealthCare.gov was bad, the Federal Register’s use of computer antiquities is much worse.
The Office of the Federal Register, which serves as the daily journal of the U.S. government, does have a fairly sleek website, but it’s also still using the long-obsolete 3.5 inch floppy disk and CD-ROM to receive files from other government agencies.
As it turns out, laws and security requirements have not kept up with technology changes — forcing the agency to still work like it’s 1999.
Jada Smith of The New York Times writes:
Davita Vance-Cooks, the head of the Government Printing Office, which oversees The Federal Register, spoke at a congressional hearing on Wednesday about her department’s attempts to make its work remain relevant in a post-print world. Despite creating mobile apps, The Federal Register still requires agencies to submit information on paper, with original signatures, though they can create a digital signature via a secured email system.
Agencies are also permitted to submit the documents on CD-ROMs and floppy disks, but not on flash drives or SD cards. “The Federal Register Act says that an agency has to submit the original and two duplicate originals or two certified copies,” said Amy P. Bunk, The Federal Register’s director of legal affairs and policy. As long as an agency does that through one of the approved methods of transmission, she said, “they’ve met the statutory requirement.”
The Register, which posts everything from laws and executive orders to proposed rule changes for public viewing, is not the only government agency which has struggled with modernization. In the late nineties, the FBI was still using computer systems from the 1980s along with terminals that would not communicate with other systems.
“You’ve got this antiquated system that still works but is not nearly as efficient as it could be,” Stan Soloway, chief executive of the Professional Services Council, told The Times.