Navy Spends $9.1M to Keep Running Windows XP

John Lister's picture

The US Navy has paid $9.1 million for ongoing support for Microsoft Windows. What makes it really amazing is that the ongoing support is for Windows XP.

The payment comes from the Navy's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command. It covers support for XP, Office 2003 and Exchange 2003. It only covers a temporary extension and there's an option for the Navy to extend the support coverage until 2017 with a total price of $30.8 million.

The Navy isn't completely clueless about how outdated the software is. It's running a program to upgrade to more recent software and previously ordered that all land-based computers be on Windows 7 by April this year.

Ship-Based Systems Stuck on XP

The problem lies with around 100,000 workstations, including many on ships, which still run the old systems. It appears they are linked to "critical command and control systems" as well as being connected to wider government networks. That puts the cost per machine at around $90. (Source:

While the Navy isn't going into details, it seems likely the problem is a combination of the bureaucracy that comes with such a large organization, and the difficulties of upgrading the machines while they are still being used for vital operations.

Although Microsoft has ended free support for XP and the other software, it does still offer paid packages, with the pricing based on the number of users. The support mainly covers issuing security updates for any newly-discovered bugs and security loopholes.

Support Needed To Maintain Security

According to the Navy, continuing to use the software without these updates would greatly increase the threat posed by hackers. It could also lead to performance problems and a potential loss of data.

Numerous government departments are also running XP on some machines, albeit on a smaller scale. Both the Army and the IRS are known to be paying for extended XP support.

One theory is that the way government departments operate their finances mean it's tough to get authorization for the large up-front costs of upgrading and installing software, even if that means paying more over the long term. (Source:

What's Your Opinion?

Should the Navy be paying the money for extended support? Should the federal government mandate that all agencies and departments use up-to-date software, even if that means large short-term costs? Does security take priority over costs when it comes to military computing?

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Dennis Faas's picture

XP is out of date and incredibly vulnerable with every day that passes. It's certainly a major threat, especially to governments with "command and control" operations! As far as the maintenance cost is concerned, I'm sure the $9.1 million is less than scrapping and replacing all the PCs, and updating programs to make them compatible with Windows 7, 8 or 10.

doliceco's picture

I had Windows XP installeld on three of my completely usable computers, and found the operating system to be the best one that Microsoft had ever released.

Only because of the discontinuation of security and support by Microsoft, I was forced to buy two new computers, and to install Windows 7 Pro on both of them. The ones I had were older ones that were not capable of running WIN 7 adequately --according to MS's "recommended" (not "minimum") requirements. Windows 7 does have a lot of useful "enhancements", but none that I find to be essential for the work I do, which is website authoring and research.

For over ten years, since WIN 95, I have set up all of my "data" files, whether they're "documents", "images", etc. on a separate and removable hard drive distinct from my hard wired "C:" drive on any new computers. The originally installed "C:" hard drive on these 2 new computers contain only "programs": the O/S files themselves, s/w upgrades, etc. and my browsers (I do website work, so I need all of them for checking sites I create) and for email.

The file system on this separate removable drive consists of "directories" I created that have "project names", which makes it simple for me to find everything. Another advangage of this being a separate and removable drive allows me to swap it between computers in the event of a system failure of either one of the two new computers I have.

Win 7 dictates that all files created go into: "Documents", "Pictures", "Music" etc. "folders", an option that is not compatible with the way I work.

When I found this out after installing 7 on the two new computers, I originally thought to obliterate the pre-installed directory (folder) system that Microsoft had pre-installed. (I was unable to find any information on whether doing this was possible/advisable or not) -- and I was also hesitant to do so because MS's configuration was probably intentional for some reasons possibly relating to the allocation of internal resources of the Win 7 system in handling different types of files (?).

Had I been informed that MS made available "extensions" of support (even if for a fee) I probably might have opted for that rather than having purchase two new computers running Win 7; and other difficultes involved in the upgrade -- the unavailability of Win 7 drivers for some of the hardware I have, etc. etc.

If Microsoft is able to provide continuing support for the Navy, (along with other entities that probably have a similar system as do I set up for their operations) that means that such support DOES EXIST and that it IS AVAILABLE; and ALL purchasers of any version of Windows should be made aware of that fact and not forced to continually upgrade and/or have to buy new hardware on an ever-more-often basis.

Not only would this provide a savings for end-users, but could very well eliminate some of the hundreds of tons of completely operable and usable computers that wind up in landfills every year -- not only in this country (despite any national, state or local government regulations) and god knows how many other thousands of tons worldwide.

What's your opinion? Do you think this would bankrupt MS or stagnate The US economy?

Commenter's picture

Unless I am seriously misunderstanding your complaint ....

If you have a separate, removable hard drive that is currently holding your data, you absolutely can continue to store your data on that hard drive using your current file system.

You can save your files anywhere you please. Windows defaults to a certain filing system as you mentioned above, but you don't have to put things where it suggests.

For an interesting article on the feasibility of MS continuing support to individual consumers of XP, check out this article:

tarza177_2334's picture

Just over 9 million dollars is a bargain for so many computers. No need to complain.

blueboxer2's picture

The nice thing about buying new operating systems for your computers if you're a navy is you can get new capabilities, dead-end enemy hackers routes of attack, and maybe do old things faster and better.
The less nice list is more extensive. The new machines cost a ton. Everyone has to be taught to use them, which costs a megaton. They may not be backward compatible yet need to work with legacy machines, and don't think about the cost of all that programming. It's not always true that the custom software on the old machines is portable or can be made to run on the new, or is expendable. So you have to work both in parallel anyway. If the old machinery isn't on a network and has no internet connection,it may not be effectively vulnerable to attack, so why put out costs for no return? It isn't a simple question.
A recent smiley story in the news involved the discovery that the Grand Rapids (MI) school board was running their HVAC control system on a 30 year old Amiga 2000, and couldn't find the multi-million budget to upgrade it.
But doesn't that beg a few questions? Like, if it's doing the job, why change it? There is still plenty of Amiga-capable techs and programmers around, many that are available for a fee. Finding more Amiga 2000s for backups should failures occur isn't hard. Or buy a generic current computer and install one of the Amiga emulators (like Amiga Forever) which can exploit state of the art hardware, clone the abilities of the top end Amiga and its latest operating system, and costs very little. Why spend dollars when pennies will do?
There are two kinds of fools. One says this is old, therefore it is good. The other says this is new, therefore it is better.
If it ain't bust, don't fix it.

Kris's picture

Yes, "if it ain't broke don't fix it" is a good philosophy to avoid needless upgrades. But it can be taken too far. We could still be driving horse and buggies and the military still using chariots.

10+ year old electronics, not to mention disks with moving parts, are very likely to croak unexpectedly. If I were the IT manager for that school board I'd have a go-to-hell plan with tested hardware ready. I think ignorance or bureaucratic inertia is at work here.

I find it hard to believe that replacing a HVAC control system would be a multi-million dollar expense, unless it's so old that the whole HVAC system needed to be replaced. But then again, it's your government at work...

Wagashigrrl's picture

Newer is 'better' is most certainly not always true.

There is benefit to downgrading some newer machines to XP. Many computer users don't have an interest or need for more processing power, fancy graphics cards and whatnot. Many of us have been using little netbooks with low end CPUs as utilitarian machines and others on tight budgets use the machines as their primary computers. Purchased in the last few years--and they run laggy on Win 7-8.1 OSs due to processing overhead. With the laptop form factor, adding memory is not possible for some machines, upgrading the CPU is impossible.

All of these machines that could have years of useful life, too soon become landfill before they have broken down. Owners of low end computers who mostly do email and web browsing are once again challenged to upgrade and may only be able to afford low end machines that will not run optimally on Windows 10. Every new OS presents bulk sale machines that have low end parts that will not run optimally.

Downgrading all those netbooks and old machines to supported XP, might save amazing money for many who are part of the so-called 99%--those people who are forgotten or merely seen as collateral damage in the long term, it seems.

One of my primary machines is on XP. It has hundreds of dollars worth of old glitch free software, databases, historical files, assorted silliness, and it also includes classic games that run perfectly fine on a 32 bit system with old recycled IDE drives. Some of the software on that machine amount to abandon-ware at this time, but once again, they all run perfectly fine.

ecash's picture

How many computers that are over 10 years old??
HOw many nations have gone over to Linux?

Wouldnt be to bad, except the IRS, needs a huge data base..