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Why Did The Navy Pay 9 Million To Maintain Dated Technology?

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Jonah Bennett Contributor
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The Navy plans to eventually transfer away from outdated software, but in the meantime, the service is willing to spend more than $9 million dollars to maintain Windows XP on 100,000 workstations.

Transition efforts to a new operating system kicked off in 2013, but two years wasn’t long enough to complete the process, leading the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to sign a contract with Microsoft to the tune of $9,149,000 dollars to keep old operating systems alive, The Hill reports. Adm. Jonathan W. Greenert issued a directive called “Windows XP Eradication Efforts” last year, detailing best practices for weaning the Navy off the platform.

Over time, the contract may expand to $30.8 million dollars, which would stretch the lifespan of the XP systems up until 2017, even though Microsoft considers the product obsolete. The contract also includes support for Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.

“Without this continued support, vulnerabilities to these systems will be discovered, with no patches to protect the systems,” the Navy document reads, according to Computer World. “The resulting deterioration will make the U.S. Navy more susceptible to intrusion … and could lead to loss of data integrity, network performance and the inability to meet mission readiness of critical networks.”

Since XP is out of date, Microsoft no longer releases free security patches. Additionally, Microsoft ended support for the software in early 2014, but as the Navy can’t afford to forgo basic security, it’s willing to allocate funds to meet important standards, which have been brought into sharp relief following the Office of Personnel Management breach. (RELATED: The OPM Hack Was Much Bigger Than Everyone Thought)

“The Navy relies on a number of legacy applications and programs that are reliant on legacy Windows products,” Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego, told Computer World. “Until those applications and programs are modernized or phased out, this continuity of services is required to maintain operational effectiveness.”

Officials left specific details about Navy systems vague for security reasons.

The Navy isn’t the only service keeping XP on life support. The Army recently signed a contract for continued XP patches on 8,000 workstations.

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