Deficit of COBOL Programmers Threatens US Government System

A number of US states have begun to rush to search for anyone with the COBOL programming language skills. The reason is balancing on the brink of paralysis of public services, the work of which is based on ancient mainframes, some of which are already 40 years old. Before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the old software was at least able to cope with its tasks, but when 6.6 million applications for unemployment benefits were immediately received by social services in a couple of weeks, the ancient servers collapsed.

Where to find programmers with a specialization in COBOL is another question. Strictly speaking, this language is not at all archaic and definitely not outdated; the last major update was released in 2014. Structurally, COBOL is much better suited for creating services for government agencies - just as it was decades ago. It is not surprising that the American authorities gave preference to such software products, but at the same time they were in no hurry to invest in the training of specialized specialists. And on the free market, COBOL was quoted much worse, so young programmers were in no hurry to master it.

The main problem is not the lack of COBOL experts, but the fact that this niche has been in decline for a long time. And now, in fact, it is necessary to somehow redo, adapt the old systems to what they were not intended for at all. For example, to optimize access to the same sites on unemployment issues from a wide range of gadgets running under different operating systems and using different methods of accessing the Internet.

Replacing old programs with new ones throughout the country is possible only in theory. In the language of money, trillions of dollars of transactions go through old COBOL mainframes every day, and no one dares to stop this traffic. But even if there is a daredevil, and even if you take out of your pocket ready-made and tested products for replacement, the physical implementation of new systems will take about a dozen years. So, there is no choice - you need to ask COBOL veterans to return to work, and students - to learn a programming language that many have not heard of.