Data Base Systems:

Observations on Social Security's Data Base Integration Program

IMTEC-88-19: Published: Jan 11, 1988. Publicly Released: Jan 11, 1988.

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Pursuant to a Social Security Administration (SSA) request, GAO reviewed the SSA database integration program, focusing on the program strategy's technical feasibility.

GAO noted that the proposed strategy required: (1) integration of five major master files containing over 900 million records; and (2) immediate on-line access to active and inactive records. GAO found that: (1) SSA had not analyzed these requirements from a mission-need or cost-effectiveness standpoint; (2) the data integration requirement exceeded current technological capabilities; and (3) the immediate access requirement would require maintaining 43 million inactive records in addition to 37 million active records. GAO also found that, although SSA stated that immediate access to all SSA records would improve service, it had not quantified its current service level or the incremental benefits. In addition, GAO found that prospective database vendors viewed the system as a high-risk project, since it would establish a unique system limiting the incorporation of future possible technological advances which are usually developed to work with standard systems. GAO believes that SSA needs to document and analyze its needs for and the possible benefits of this system to: (1) help measure the extent to which automation has achieved its objectives; (2) facilitate the preparation of congressional budget requests and provide a framework for deliberations; and (3) help identify technical and policy issues requiring consideration as its needs change.

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