60% uptime!

Secret Service Computers Only Work at 60 Percent Capacity; Agency Uses 1980s Mainframe


A classified review of the United States Secret Service's computer technology found that the agency's computers were fully operational only 60 percent of the time because of outdated systems and a reliance on a computer mainframe that dates to the 1980s, according to Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn.

"We have here a premiere law enforcement organization in our country which is responsible for the security of the president and the vice president and other officials of our government, and they have to have better IT than they have," said Lieberman, who is chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.

Sources tell ABC News that the Secret Service was so plagued by computer problems that the agency invited the National Security Agency to formally review its information technology systems. The Secret Service's databases are outdated and users are at times unable to conduct searches from one system to another.

Lieberman says he's had "concern for a while" about the Secret Service computers. A 60 percent, fully operational average is far worse than "industry and government standards that are around 98 percent generally," Lieberman said.

Comment: We (unnamed bank) have like 99.98% uptime. Observation from some experience here. If you have systems, they have to be updated every several years. The conversion from very old (and obsolete systems) to current systems is very expensive. To bring it down to the personal level: I used to have files on 5.25" floppies, then 3.5" floppies, etc. Imagine skipping all the intermediate upgrade steps and then finding yourself with critical files on a 5.25" floppy! Back in the early 80's I helped a ministry get set up with a TRS Model 16 running Xenix. It was state of the art for small businesses. The ministry kept that system to the point of obsolescence. The director contacted me and asked for help upgrading to Windows. They ended up doing a completely manual conversion of printing off inventory records from the old system and manually keying them into the new system. I know of some businesses that have databases on Microsoft Access 95! Guess what ... it is no longer supported.

Picture above is a Tandy 6000 HD. My friend's computer was basically this machine but it had 2 8" floppies and an external hard drive.


  1. Not discounting the 60% uptime, but I don't think Lieberman really has much knowledge of computing.
    To simply say we need to have better computers than the hackers, our systems are not better as evidenced with the 60% uptime (and the low uptime is because our machines are from the 80s), therefore we need to upgrade is wrong. In order to prove this, you would need to figure out why they have a 60% uptime. Is it really because the machines are from the 80s, or is it because the director of IT has no idea about IT? I would venture to guess they are using either an AS/400 or a Unisys mainframe. If I am correct, both of those are beasts. They should have almost a 100% uptime. Which leads me to believe the director of IT needs to be replaced, not the systems. (or at least not replace the systems because of the uptime, but for some other reason)

    Because with that syllogism, one is looking at the problem the wrong way, and they will just replace the systems for replacing sake. I would put money down that they will still have huge downtime no matter what system they move to if they retain their current director of IT. (especially if they move to Windows Server)

  2. Lieberman's not that out of it; he's pointing out that certain staffers are unable to perform their jobs as a result. Fire the director/VP of IT and....

    ...his boss, too. Somebody is having a seriously bad correlation of needs to resources here.

  3. So Daniel, in your comment are you inferring that business with Windows Server all have just 60% uptime?

    Really, we have no idea what the "60% uptime" referred to in the article means. It could be the mainframe, it could be the infrastructure, it could be the other machines they depend on. But for sure, it's no different than anywhere else - with technology if you're not constantly moving forward, you're falling behind.

  4. I must have been confusing. To answer your question Tobin, no, I do not think companies that run Windows Server have a 60% uptime. I don't know any statistics, but I would venture to guess most companies, no matter the OS, have a relatively high uptime, at least in the 90s, if not high 90s.

    What I am saying about this article, or at least the interpretation of the data that was given to Lieberman is more than likely it is not the hardwares fault for a 60% uptime. And if it is not the hardwares fault, no matter what system they move to, they will still have the same issue. If it was bad programming, are they going to revamp their program? If they revamp their program, will they program it properly? If it is those who maintain the hardware, will they automagically become better at maintaining hardware? Do you see what I mean? Instead of just saying we have a 60% uptime and it is the result of old hardware, they should do the 5 Whys. I would put money, if I was a gambler, that the hardware is the least of their worries, but rather bad technicians all the way up to bad management, possibly to the director.

    Re: your second paragraph, I thought the implication was the 60% was a result of old hardware. But I am not going to get into that as you and I both at least agree that the article does not come out and say what was the result of the 60% uptime.

  5. I agree that the article infers the hardware is the problem. If further research has been done, the writer didn't mention it.

    I would hope that they'd do a proper analysis of the problem before beginning an upgrade process. But, it's government. Enough said.


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