The federal government's secret 1966 cloud computing plan

Even as far back as 45 years ago, the US federal government struggled to consolidate and become more service-oriented across its agency silos. Some worried about privacy implications.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Even as far back as 45 years ago, the US federal government was debating and struggling with ways to consolidate its data centers and become more service-oriented across its agency silos. At the time, though, it looked like the cost would have been $2 million a year to start -- a bargain compared to today's $80 billion-a-year IT budget.

From The Lewiston Daily, June 14, 1966:

"WASHINGTON -- A special White House Task Force is recommending the creation of a federal data center which would eventually have a comprehensive file on every man, woman and child in the country. Now under study in inner administration circles, the still-secret report advocates the gradual transfer of all government records and statistics to magnetic computer tape, which would be turned over to a newly created agency that would function as a general data center. The computerized information would be available, at the touch of a button, to a wide range of government authorities. Estimated cost of the proposed center (which would have to be approved by Congress before becoming a reality) is $2 million the first few years, around $12 million when in full operation.

"A vast accumulation of government records already is on computer tape and could be turned over to the proposed general data center immediately. Listed among those available files are [records maintained by the Internal Revenue Service, Defense Department, Civil Service Commission, FBI, Social Security Administration, Census Bureau, Labor and Agricultural Departments, Office of Education]."

The article raises privacy alarms about the government using computers to keep tabs on all citizens.

My, how times change. And as we can now say with 20/20 hindsight, the plan to get rid of all those data center silos was obviously a bust.

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