ADP Systems:

SSA's Modernization Efforts Need Redirection

IMTEC-87-16: Published: Apr 10, 1987. Publicly Released: Apr 30, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Systems Modernization Plan to: (1) determine if SSA should redirect or cancel it; and (2) assess SSA claims that automation improvements could reduce staff.

GAO found that: (1) although SSA has made some improvements in its acquisition of computer equipment and expansion of the data communications network, it has not met its objectives of modernizing its software and implementing an integrated database; (2) SSA modernized its systems without developing a long-range plan; (3) SSA failed to follow the established plan for technical strategies or adequately test system performance; (4) previous modernization attempts were unsuccessful because of inadequate planning and management of systems activities, as well as staffing deficiencies; (5) the current plan does not adequately address systems deficiencies or methods for correcting those deficiencies; and (6) the planned SSA staff reduction of over 5,000 positions was delayed, and the extent of reduction attributable to the automated effort is uncertain.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Matter for Congressional Consideration

    Matter: Congress should consider limiting SSA future automatic data processing (ADP) appropriations to the maintenance and operation of its current systems and only those critical modernization and improvement initiatives identified in its revised Systems Modernization Plan. These limitations should remain in effect until SSA has demonstrated its ability to complete software redesign, has determined its system configuration requirements, and has had its revised plan reviewed by appropriate committees of Congress.

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is being assessed by GAO under a current review of SSA modernization activities.

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Commissioner of Social Security to redirect SSA systems modernization activities, while completing its long-range operational plan. In redirecting its modernization effort, SSA should adjust hardware procurement plans to reflect the actual needs of the agency based on the modernization effort's reduced scope.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: As part of its ongoing revisions to the modernization program, SSA adjusted its hardware procurement plans by cancelling one large computer acquisition and delaying the acquisition of optional terminals and data communications equipment.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Commissioner of Social Security to redirect SSA systems modernization activities, while completing its long-range operational plan. In redirecting its modernization effort, SSA should complete sufficient detailed documentation of the existing systems to support software redesign.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is being assessed by GAO under a current review of SSA modernization activities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Commissioner of Social Security to redirect SSA systems modernization activities, while completing its long-range operational plan. In redirecting its modernization effort, SSA should, on the basis of this revised plan, reduce the scope of the modernization effort to address the most critical system deficiencies, emphasizing software redesign. SSA should use this focused effort to demonstrate its ability to complete software redesign and to determine requirements for the total hardware and software configuration.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is being assessed by GAO under a current review of SSA modernization activities.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should require the Commissioner of Social Security to redirect SSA systems modernization activities, while completing its long-range operational plan. In redirecting its modernization effort, SSA should revise its Systems Modernization Plan to: (1) define and prioritize system deficiencies; and (2) identify methods for correcting these deficiencies.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: This recommendation is being assessed by GAO under a current review of SSA modernization activities.

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