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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The Social Security Administration (SSA) administers a broad national program of social insurance as prescribed by legislation, which is amender! and changed from time to time. To perform its mission, the SSA must rely on modern computer and physical facilities, which include a nationwide field network of more than 1,300 offices and 37 teleservice centers, an agency headquarters (in Baltimore, Maryland) that includes the National Computer Center (NCC), 3 data operations centers (DOCs) (Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania; Albuquerque, New Mexico; and Salinas, California), and 6 program service centers (PSCs) (New York, New York; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; Birmingham, Alabama; Chicago, Illinois; Kansas City, Missouri; ant! Richmond, California). Among other activities, the agency must issue social security numbers (SSNs), maintain correct records of earnings, receive and establish claimant applications for benefits and assemble the evidence to prove eligibility, adjudicate retirement and survivors insurance claims, determine the amounts of benefits payable, forward disability insurance claims to cooperating state agencies, provide the information necessary for each citizen to understand his or her rights and obligations under the program, certify benefit payments to the U.S. Department of the Treasury s disbursing centers, maintain beneficiary records, and collect overpayments and debts. By any measure the SSA is a mammoth organization. The trust funs! balance for fiscal year 1988 was $85.5 billion. It has about 66,000 employees. Over 35 million people are receiving retirement and disability benefits. Some 7 million new SSNs and 5 million changes to existing ones are requested each year; 327 million SSNs have been issued. Wage postings for 200 million people are made each year. Approximately 3 million new claims and 120 million changes affecting retirement and survivors disability insurance are processed each year. One million new claims and 9 million changes for Supplemental Security Income are processed each year. 1

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2 The NCC has 14 major mainframes that support a database of 1.3 terabytes, provide an aggregated processing capability of 453 million instructions per second (MIPS), and service (presently) 25,500 remote terminals nationwide and worldwide. There are 7 million transactions per day against the master database. By the year 2000, the population over age 65 is expected to increase by 36 percent, the number of people receiving retirement and disability benefits will reach 44 million, and new claims are projected to become 5.6 million annually. This report (in three of the chapters) deals with the committee's assessment of the past, the challenges of the present, and strategies for the future. THE PAST . . , The SSA and the officials ant, organizations that oversee its activities have not always appreciated that a continuing ongoing capital investment must be made to maintain the , . currency and adequacy of its information infrastructure and the computer systems and networks that implement it. The complexities of advocating, justifying, budgeting, and seeking appropriations in the federal government are a major complicating factor. Thus, the SSA has periodically found itself in a crisis situation in which its computer systems were antiquated or hopelessly overloaded and unable to support the agency's mission. The most recent crisis occurred in 1982; the recovery plan, essentially now complete, became known as the Systems Modernization Plan (Saw). Reflecting a capital investment of $500 million, the SMP included two major changes in the SSA's operational computer environment: data were moved from 700,000 reels of magnetic tape onto direct-access on-line magnetic disk storage, and some functions were transitioned from batch style to an on-line interactive style delivered at computer terminals throughout the country. As part of such a huge effort, the SSA had to put in place a modern software development environment and modern project management methods and provide extensive training to its development and user (field) organizations. We conclude that the major goals of the System Modernization Plan have been successfully achieved. THE PRESENT Because continuity in the SSA's programs is vital to the well-being of the nation, it is unreasonable that the SSA, which is more critical to the citizens of the nation than any private firm, continue to operate without significantly improved provisions for assuring continuity of service to its clients. Because the SSA depends completely upon the operation of the NCC, we recommend that:

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3 The Social Security Administration immediately develop ~ workable strategy for surviving ~ partial or major loss at the National Computer Center. The SSA should consider, as a minimum, alternatives for (1) a second computer center and (2) elaborating the current hot-site strategy to provide on-line support in the event of a loss of the NCC. The SSA's current intent to use a commercial hot site provides only for processing a small subset of the normal workload in the old-style batch-only environment using backup reserve copies of the agency's master files stored offsite on magnetic tape. The present arrangement cannot support the agency's 25,500 on-line computer terminals, nor will it allow for use of the SSA's modernized claims system; it would also cut off support of the teleservice and other sites. Accordingly, under the current plan for backup and recovery, the SSA must concurrently maintain both software-based and paper-forms-based processing methods, and employees must maintain familiarity with both methods so that they can revert back to paper- based methods should the NCC go down. This will become increasingly more difficult as time goes on and the agency's automation of processes expands. There are many forces outside the control of the SSA that drive its workload and hence its needs for more computer power and networks (e.g., population growth, changes in the law, aging of the population, shifts in life style, social changes). There are also events that the SSA can control to some extent that additionally drive the computer demand (e.g., upgrades of equipment, improvements in quality of service to clients, level of automation). The SSA will have to become much more attentive, if not aggressive, in presenting its case to Congress for continuing infusion of capital investment in its information infrastructure and in its internal planning and managing for ongoing system expansions and upgrades. Because the agency's workload is directly influenced by the scope and quality of services it provides to clients, the agency must recognize the additive, cumulative, and uncontrollable effects that on-demand services, such as nationwide teleservices--notably the nationwide 1-800-234-5SSA universal access phone number--and the Personal Earnings Benefit Statement (PEBES), can, and probably will, have on its workload. The SSA must carefully plan and implement all new services, with particular emphasis on assuring that adequate computer and communications capacity are available to support such new services. We recommend that: The Social Security Administration thoroughly analyze the impact of new client-driven services or the quality upgrade of services that entail additional identified or latent on-line computer support to assure the adequacy of supporting automation. In this regard, note that the PERES is a new service, whereas the "area co-de SoO" is largely a new way to package the delivery of existing and traditional services. It would be valuable to retrospectively examine each to ascertain what effect each has had. For example: How much unexpected latent demand has there been? Has there been any productivity increase in service delivery? Have there been new problems not present previously? The SSA,s ability to offer its clients appropriate services is dependent on its ability to acquire suitable, compatible, and reliable information technology, particularly computer and communications equipment. The acquisition of such technology in the federal government is

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4 subject to lengthy internal and external reviews and to budget considerations that effectively constrain the agency ability to respond quickly in the environment in which it operates. Because of the impact on the public, the SSA must necessarily proceed more slowly and cautiously than the private sector in providing new or expanded services. Contracts with indefinite delivery and quantity procurement terms can improve the SSA's ability to acquire needed resources in a timely manner. The information systems crisis in 1982 was largely caused by the agency's neglect and failure to invest routinely in the upkeep of its systems. However, neglect is not the only reason that a systems crisis can occur. Overly aggressive introduction of new services or increases in service levels that are not supported by adequate personnel or system capacity can also precipitate a crisis. In order to avoid such ~self-inducecI. crises, the SSA must have a management process that will ensure that a crisis does not occur. We recommend that: The Social Security Administration adopt management processes of strict analysis and control to avoid the recurrence of an information systems crisis. For example, it may prove to be that on-line computer support for the recently installed 25,500 computer terminals is inadequate, perhaps as a result of the SSA's having only early experience functioning in a terminal environment. Problems can also be caused by a release of unperceived! latent user demand. To deal with changes in demand, the agency must: (~) thoroughly forecast and justify expansion and upgrade of the existing information systems infrastructure on a continuing basis, (2) quantify and define in advance the specific performance goals to be provided its clients, (3) measure and monitor actual performance, anti (4) plan for the orderly introduction of new services consistent with available personnel and budgetary resources. The following specific actions would be a part of such a process: Institute regular senior management review of actual quality delivered. Conduct frequent management reviews to ensure that planned changes can be executed without negatively affecting current services. With respect to service quality, the SSA has long pondered what it should set as an objective for responsiveness. We recommend that: The Social Security Administration quantify each aspect of service quality (e.g., elapsed time to complete), monitor its overall performance, and manage against such a priori service goals. Even though substantial capital investment and agency effort went into systems modernization, automation of the SSA is far from complete. While the agency has made important progress in automating many basic tasks, particularly those involving database file

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s updates, many areas still rely heavily on manual processing for most program functions. To be a moclern service agency, in which case actions are processed on-line and batch processing is reserved for routine support applications such as periodic database backups or data transfers, the SSA must continue the modernization of its automation that began in 1982. Users should have single-session access to all needed ciata for each case and to all editing and processing capability that is required to perform completely all programmatic functions, including updating the database. In large extent the SSA has automated individual data processing tasks as they happen to derive from prior batch program runs, whereas the future will require that it automate overall information processes from initial data input through final output. The automation must be a smoothly flowing sequence of events automatically proceeding through the computer system; it must not be a series of individual tasks with manual handoff of data from one to the next, or controlled by actions of an operator at a console, or with awkward exchange of cIata among individual actions. Given where it was in 1982 versus the task that had to be completed to achieve its present 1989 posture, it is not surprising that automation is incomplete or that parts of the SSA have been little touched at all. We recommend that: The Social Security Administration aggressively carry forward to completion automation of the basic functions of the agency, including the many for which automation is currently under way or partially implemented, as well as some for which automation is not yet started. A particular target of opportunity is in the area of disability processing, which continues to be almost exclusively a paper file folder operation that consumes a disproportionate share of operating budget. Because automation holds such promise for disability processing, the SSA should! conduct a feasibility study to determine technological and system alternatives that can be introduced in a phased manner to support this function. THE FUTURE A very pertinent issue is whether the present computer system architecture, which is derived from the prior batch-oriented configuration, is adequate or appropriate for a fully automated, and probably highly integrated, on-line programmatic and administrative environment. In this regard we recommend that: The Social Security Administration retain the present centralizers database architecture but plan for the introduction of ~intelligent" workstations providing increased local support to the users of the system and embodying a common user interface for performing any agency function. Having a common user interface implies that each user will, for example, log onto the system in the same way, access databases in the same way, and use a consistent set of key strokes to accomplish specific actions. It does not imply that any SSA employee will be able to perform

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6 every SSA function from his or her terminal. Quite the contrary, each employee will be carefully confined by the system to just those actions that he or she is authorizer! to do. To provide for greater responsiveness and completeness of services that clients will come to expect and to increase productivity, efficiency, and accuracy, the SSA strategy should build upon its centralized database as opposed to decentralizing it to a large number of dispersed geographical locations (i.e., a so-called distributed data system). A second computer center to assure continuity of service, however, is not in conflict with this view. At the same time, the present architecture burdens the NCC with handling every user keystroke and action at every terminal. Such functions can be offloaded by extending the architecture to include workstation technology but, importantly, with each of them having a common user interface throughout the agency. The agency's stated intention to evolve toward an integrated information system infrastructure to support its combined program, administrative, and financial functions is a major technical-economic issue that requires careful examination before sizeable investments are made to achieve this end. As a beginning, we advocate developing a level of integration and concomitant architecture to support just the programmatic functions. Moving toward a more integrated work environment for SSA personnel raises two collateral issues that must be considered as essential aspects for consideration in planning and implementing advanced architectures. While the SSA has carefully installed security safeguards of various kinds to protect its database and its physical facility at the NCC, the computer and network security aspects of extensive on-line integrated services are quite different in nature and detail. Both the data per se and the systems have much higher exposure to a much larger population of users and ensuing risks. The SSA will have to become knowledgeable and skilled in contemporary computer security technology and safeguards and both include security as an integral design goal of new systems and retrofit safeguards into existing systems as the transition to on-line operation progresses. A word processing capability is an obvious need for all users in an integrated programmatic environment. Whether it should be provided separately or through integration of office automation systems and programmatic systems is an issue to be carefully and thoroughly examined. Quite aside from computer technology, the SSA is an enormous consumer of communica- tions capability, for both telephone and data services. Historically, communications services have been procured in bits and pieces as individual requirements came along. Because telecommunications cost is the largest segment of the SSA's information technology systems budget and because economy of scale can be realized by consolidating telecommunications requirements for organization wide acquisition and management, the SSA should consolidate its telecommunications requirements for voice and data and centrally specify, procure, and manage such resources within a single management structure. We recommend that:

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7 The Social Security Administration consolidate voice and data requirements to talcs advantage of possible economies of scale in procurement and management of telecommunications facilities. Finally, there are other things that the SSA must do in its ongoing course of business but perhaps more aggressively or with more determination in the face of the unflagging press of technology. . The SSA already has written an Agency Strategic Plan (ASP). It clearly needs frequent, possibly annual updating to reflect a quickly changing world, but the present version also needs a better context. It does not properly portray SSA's Strategic vision. of what it believes it will look like, or alternatively what it would like to look like, in the time frame over which any version of the ASP will be relevant. There is much existing technology that is potentially exploitable in SSA systems and networks; there are also many promising developments that may prove to be valuable (e.g., expert-system technology to support and aid decision making). In regard to these two points, we recommend that: The Social Security Administration study and inventory its technological base with the view toward establishing the relevance and candidacy of promising new technologies to its systems and needs, identify opportunities to exploit them to reduce costs and enhance services, and incorporate the results of such studies and examinations into revised editions of its Agency Strategic Plan.

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