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Spilled coffee? Military contractor loses 100,000 U.S. Air Force case files

More than 100,000 case files dating back to 2004 have been lost after a major database crash affecting the U.S. Air Force’s Automated Case Tracking System (ACTS). Worse yet, the data backup method that was being used is not helping the service salvage the lost files.

ACTS was designed to track all kinds of administrative requests pertaining to the Air Force, according to a report from Ars Technica. The system was charged with keeping records of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, congressional inquiries, and any investigations into complaints of fraud, abuse, waste, among other issues.

As you can imagine, the information in the database could potentially be relevant in years to come, so there’s plenty of impetus to restore the lost records. ACTS is operated by independent contractor Lockheed Martin, and apparently the company is facing difficulties as it carries out recovery attempts.

Lockheed Martin reportedly alerted the Air Force to the situation on June 6, having spent two weeks trying to rectify the problem internally. “The database crashed and there is no data,” Air Force Media Operations representative Ann Stefanek wrote in an email to The Hill. “At this time we don’t have any evidence of malicious intent.”

The files stored in the system relate to both historical issues and cases that are currently active. Investigations into ongoing cases are facing major delays, since information crucial to the process has been rendered inaccessible by the database failure.

The Air Force is currently determining whether there is another usable backup of the database, and is also collaborating with experts outside of the service in an attempt to find a solution. Whatever the result, we can all learn from this slip: back up important files regularly — and do make sure that those backups contain usable data.