Social Security Administration:

Update on Year 2000 and Other Key Information Technology Initiatives

T-AIMD-99-259: Published: Jul 29, 1999. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1999.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) progress in implementing key information technology initiatives critical to its ability to effectively serve the public, focusing on SSA's efforts to: (1) achieve year 2000 readiness; (2) implement the Intelligent Workstation/Local Area Network (IWS/LAN); and (3) develop its Reengineered Disability System (RDS).

GAO noted that: (1) SSA first recognized the potential impact of the year 2000 in 1989, and in so doing, was able to launch an early response to this challenge; (2) SSA initiated early awareness activities and made significant progress in assessing and renovating mission-critical mainframe software that enables it to provide social security benefits and other assistance to the public; (3) despite its accomplishments, however, GAO's 1997 report on SSA's year 2000 problem program identified, and recommended actions for addressing three key risk areas; (4) SSA agreed with all of GAO's recommendations and efforts to implement them have either been taken or are underway; (5) to further reduce the risk of disruptions, in the fall of 1998, SSA initiated a year 2000 change management process; (6) SSA's process is comprised of three key components: (a) a quality assurance process; (b) year 2000 system recertifications; and (c) a moratorium on discretionary software modifications; (7) SSA expects IWS/LAN to play a critical role by providing the basic automation infrastructure to support redesigned work processes and to improve the availability and timeliness of information; (8) under this initiative, SSA planned to replace approximately 40,000 terminals and other computer equipment used in about 2,000 SSA and state disability determination service sites with an infrastructure consisting of networks of intelligent workstations connected to each other and to SSA's mainframe computers; (9) the resources that SSA plans to invest in acquiring IWS/LAN are enormous; (10) over the past year, SSA has continued its aggressive implementation of IWS/LAN; (11) it is essential that SSA conduct in-process and post-implementation reviews for the IWS/LAN initiative; (12) without such reviews, the agency will be unable to make informed decisions concerning: (a) whether it should continue, modify, or terminate its investment in a particular initiative; or (b) how it can improve and refine its information technology investment decision-making process; (13) SSA's work toward developing RDS has been ongoing for many years; (14) RDS was to be the first major programmatic software application to operate on SSA's IWS/LAN infrastructure and be part of the enabling platform for SSA's modernized disability claims process; and (15) however, after approximately 7 years and more than $71 million reportedly spent on the initiative, SSA has not succeeded in developing RDS and no longer plans to continue the effort.

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