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CHAPTER I Introduction and Summary Since 1975, the Social Security Administration has been planning the complete redesign of its data management system. This report reviews the planning accomplished through 1978 to develop and implement a future process. The SSA "process" refers to the management and operational techniques and activities through which the SSA does its work and meets its responsibilities. Background information about the present process is contained in Chapter II, together with the outline of an SSA design concept for its future process. In the panel's earlier review, it examined the system design concepts then being considered by the Social Security Administration. In its first report, the panel concluded that the cornerstone of the SSA system design should be modularity--the use of separable sub- systems with well-defined interfaces--so that the new system will have sufficient flexibility to accommodate the demands of future legisla- tion. The first report noted that no major breakthroughs in technology are necessary. It recommended that the data base be structured so that it could be distributed geographically as a safeguard against a major failure or breakdown. The first report also emphasized the importance of several topics that are themes of this second report-- planning for transition, provision for privacy, security, and confiden- tiality and the vital consideration of human factors. During its second review, the panel focused on the planning being done by the Social Security Administration 0 to develop its strategy for the acquisition of a new system, to move without interruption from the present process to the future one, to provide for improved protection of privacy and improved security in the future process, and to take human factors considerations more fully into account in the future process. 1

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2 In developing its strategy for acquisition, the SSA is required to take into account two major federal policies that now govern the acquisition of major computer-based systems by the federal government. The first is Public Law 89-306, known as the Brooks Act of 1965, which directs the Administrator of General Services to coordinate federal acquisition of automatic data processing equipment and to do so ~ economically and efficiently. The second is the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circular A-109, Major-Systems Acquisition, dated - April 5, 1976, which directs federal agencies to follow a broadly specified acquisition procedure that emphasizes the competitive exploration of alternative system design concepts to satisfy approved mission needs. OMB Circular A-109 requires the SSA to shift away from its previous intention to develop detailed specifications and designs, and proceed toward the development of mission requirements, broad functional specifications, and criteria for the evaluation of designs. Under A-109, the development of detailed specifications and design is to be done by contractors. The panel recommends that SSA organize its planning for the acquisition around two documents--a management plan and a project plan. The outlines of both of these plans may be found in Chapter III, along with additional comments by the panel on system acquisition. Planning for transition is of particular significance because it affects nearly all other aspects of the new system, including system design and acquisition. Transition planning can be useful in harmoniz- ing the necessary interim upgradings of the present system with the acquisition and introduction of new equipment for the future system. In an effort to coordinate its short term and long term planning efforts, the SSA in 1978 developed a tentative architecture 1/ for the future system based on the design concept 2/ that it had defined the previous year. The panel supports that action and also supports the SSA's establishment of user groups, consisting of SSA operating personnel, to advise on problems that they perceive are likely to arise during the transition period. During its review, this panel examined alternative approaches to transition--the sequence in which services would be activated in the future process. "Services"-are defined as the major categories of work --such as the assignment of social security numbers, the adjudication of claims, and the payment of benefits. In one approach, the individual SSA services would be introduced one at a time throughout SSA. In another, all services would be introduced at only one or at most a few locations and later extended together over the entire system. In a third approach, the supporting subsystems--such as telecommunications, data base, and terminals--would be upgraded one at a time. These alternatives are examined in detail in Chapter IV. The panel has examined in some detail the question of whether vendors could perform all SSA operational services at a limited number of local offices during the competitive demonstration phase of acquisition. The panel concludes that if the task-were simplified so as to include something less than all possible exceptions to the general rules, demonstrating a complete system might be feasible. Further analysis of the state of the SSA's data elements and application

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3 programs appears necessary before reaching a firm conclusion. The panel expects the major problems of transition to relate to the conversion of the data base, the concurrent operation of the old and new processes, and the attitude of operating personnel toward the new system. The panel recommends that the SSA mount an effort to define its data elements, to clarify the state of its application programs, and to continue to include representative "users" in its planning process. The SSA has commissioned detailed studies of privacy and security matters and of human factors as these relate to the future process. It is important that the results of these studies be applied early in the system design and on a system-wide basis. Privacy and security considerations are the subject of Chapter V, and human factors the subject of Chapter VI. In safeguarding the privacy of personal records and information, a good start has been made. The SSA will still need to make a judgment as to the risks and threats the future system will face, enunciate a clear policy on the safeguarding of information, establish require- ments for system safeguards and management controls, and ensure that vendors incorporate the required safeguards. These steps will be necessary to comply with the Privacy Act of 1974 and with Circular A-71 of the Office of Management and Budget on Security of Federal Automated Information Systems. For its human factors effort, SSA has established a Test and Evaluation Facility to provide a laboratory in which to study the dynamics of such situations as client interviews, as well as inter- actions between claims representatives and a data base. This facility has the potential to play a major role in acquisition and transition as well, for it is capable of making preliminary tests and demonstra- tions of software, terminals, and local processing facilities before these components of the future system are introduced into the field offices. The use of such a facility is apparently unique, outside of the Department of Defense, for system development efforts in the federa' government. The panel concurs with the SSA plan to conduct human factors research in district offices as well as in its facility. Furthermore, the panel suggests that the SSA consider pursuing a study of clients' attitudes. Developing a future process presents both opportunities and challenges to the SSA. Computer and telecommunications technologies provide a major opportunity to make the SSA process more efficient and its delivery of services more effective and timely. Moreover, develop- ing a future process also provides SSA an opportunity to return to fundamentals--to the legislation where necessary--and to rethink the entire process in order to make sure that it is responsive to the essential requirements that arise from legislative mandates and executive regulations and not to procedures and methods that have been adopted only to overcome discernable system inadequacies in the past. There also are opportunities to rethink the methods and procedures for monitoring the performance of the process, so that it can be made more responsive and controllable, and to build a system of sufficient flexibility that it can adapt easily to requirements to be imposed in

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4 the future, even those that are not now forseeable. Finally, there is the challenge to create a future process that exploits the computer- communications technology in ways that call forth the best efforts of the people who will actually use it, to the benefit of the entire nation.