US Navy spends millions to stay low-tech

Brig_Niagara_full_sailWhile it is spending a fortune on new weaponry, the US Navy would rather pay millions in protection money to Microsoft to keep its ancient Windows XP machines running.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, which runs the Navy’s communications and information networks, signed a US$9.1 million contract earlier this month for continued access to security patches for Windows XP, Office 2003, Exchange 2003 and Windows Server 2003.

This will be worth $30.8 million to Microsoft and extend into 2017. All of those products have been deemed obsolete by Microsoft by July 14.

It is good for Microsoft as it will continue to offer security updates on a paid basis for customers like the Navy. It has to do the security updates anyway because it still has a fair number of Government customers who have also been slow to upgrade.

The Navy tried to sail away from XP in 2013, but it seemed to hit some headwind with the project as of May this year it still had approximately 100,000 workstations running XP or the other software.

Steven Davis, a spokesman for the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command in San Diego said that the Navy relies on a number of legacy applications and programs that are reliant on legacy Windows products.

“Until those applications and programs are modernised or phased out, this continuity of services is required to maintain operational effectiveness.”

Microsoft applications affect “critical command and control systems” on ships and land-based legacy systems. Affected systems are connected to NIPRnet, the US government’s IP network for non-classified information, and SIPRnet, the network for classified information.