Software Systems:

SSA Encountering Significant Delays in Its Claims Modernization Project

IMTEC-87-8: Published: Dec 22, 1986. Publicly Released: Mar 2, 1987.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) Claims Modernization Project (CMP) to determine SSA progress in achieving the project's original objectives.

GAO found that: (1) although SSA has reduced the original scope of CMP, it has fallen 3 years behind schedule; (2) SSA completed no major portion of the software redesign, although it procured significant amounts of hardware; (3) SSA has not followed sound management practices in implementing reduced CMP; (4) because SSA has not followed good systems development practices, its systems are vulnerable to problems similar to those it experienced in the past; (5) without standards for testing, documenting, and validating software, future modifications could be difficult and costly; and (6) despite the delays and inadequate tests, SSA contracted to procure the hardware to support original CMP and is faced with renegotiating quantities and delivery schedules.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: SSA is reassessing its modernization initiative, which may create different hardware needs. Ongoing and planned work will continue to evaluate SSA resource needs.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should reconsider the quantity of hardware needed and the timing of its installation. If the reassessment discloses that the quantity of hardware being procured, as well as the installation schedule of such hardware, exceeds the needs of the scaled-back and delayed CMP, SSA should consider cost-effective alternatives, including renegotiation of the hardware contracts. Since installation schedules have been established in the contract, SSA needs to give priority attention to this recommendation.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Current GAO work is continuing to assess the need for SSA to implement a comprehensive pilot test program.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should conduct a prototype test that reflects the results of the reassessment and is designed to include an evaluation of the performance of the total hardware configuration and software components as they are developed. At a minimum, the test should include verifying operational performance and additional equipment needs, and the impact on field office positions, as well as evaluating the impact on the overall program objective of improving service to the public.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The plan will not be completed until sometime in the later part of 1988, and will be evaluated by GAO at that time.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should develop time frames and cost estimates for achieving the redesign.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The reassessment is underway at SSA and will be evaluated in planned work.

    Recommendation: To avoid a continuation of the problems which have hindered the SSA software modernization effort and related hardware acquisitions, the Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to reassess the SSA approach to modernization, including determining the criticality of the deficient software areas originally included in CMP and prioritizing the redesign of that software accordingly.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Standards have been completed and their use will be evaluated in other ongoing and planned work.

    Recommendation: The Commissioner of Social Security should complete development of software standards and apply these standards in future software development in order to reduce the level of risk inherent in the agency's software improvement practices.

    Agency Affected: Social Security Administration


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