Computer Operations:

Improvements Needed in Social Security's Capacity Management Program

IMTEC-89-8: Published: Jan 18, 1989. Publicly Released: Jan 18, 1989.

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GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) computer capacity management program to assess the effectiveness of SSA: (1) management of existing computer resources; and (2) planning for future resource needs.

GAO found that SSA did not have an effective capacity management program, since it did not: (1) systematically collect and analyze sufficiently detailed data on planned work loads to ensure effective capacity planning; (2) effectively model its requirements to accurately predict computer capacity needs; and (3) use pilot testing to evaluate how various components operated together and to assess component traffic patterns. GAO also found that: (1) SSA formed a review team and had two contractors perform independent assessments of its capacity management program; (2) although the evaluations reported that the capacity management process produced some valuable and directly useful information, they raised questions about SSA ability to determine its current and future computer capacity requirements; and (3) although SSA has implemented some of the recommended actions, it cannot effectively ensure future computer acquisitions until it improves its capacity management program.

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

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to ensure that SSA improves its capacity management program as currently scheduled and uses this program to justify future acquisitions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA completed the scheduled capacity management improvement initiatives by December 1989. Improvements included the establishment of user service agreements for on-line systems; consolidation of responsibility for procurements in order to focus on required expertise and managerial responsibility; and development of updated agency procurement procedures to clarify documentation requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to avoid executing major computer acquisitions until an effective capacity management program is in place.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation and believes that improvements have been made in its Capacity Management Program. For example, SSA has developed a disciplined strategy for acquisition of additional capacity.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to demonstrate, if SSA believes that computer resources must be acquired to support day-to-day operations before an effective capacity management program is in place, that such acquisitions are the most appropriate means for meeting its immediate needs.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA agreed with this recommendation. An analysis has been performed which supports the continuing implementation of SSA goals and public service, according to SSA. The analysis is sound and sufficient and justifies continued procurements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should direct the Commissioner of Social Security to report the lack of effective capacity management as a material control weakness under the Federal Managers' Financial Integrity Act (FMFIA) until an improved program has been implemented.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: SSA disagreed with this recommendation. It believes that GAO did not demonstrate that the SSA mission is in jeopardy. As such, it believes that GAO has no basis for this recommendation. However, in light of actions taken on other recommendations, it is no longer relevant to report this under FMFIA. Therefore, this recommendation is being dropped.

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