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Systems Modernization and the Strategic Plans of the Social Security Administration A Report Prepared by the Committee on Review of the SSA's System Modernization Plan (SMP) and Agency Strategic Plan (ASP) Board on Telecommunications and Computer Applications Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems National Research Council NATIONAL ACADEMY PRESS Washington, D.C. 1990
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NOTICE: The project that is the subject of this report w" approved by the Governing Board of the National Research Council, whose members are drawn from the councils of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The members of the committee responsible for this report were chosen for their special competences and with regard for appropriate balance. This report has been retrieved by a group other than the authors according to procedures approved by a Report Review Committee consisting of members of the National Academy of Sciences, the National Academy of Engineering, and the Institute of Medicine. The National Academy of Sciences is a private, nonprofit, self-perpetuating society of distinguished scholars engaged in scientific and engineering research, dedicated to the furtherance of science and technology and to their use for the general welfare. Upon the authority of the charter granted to it by the Congress in 186S, the Academy has a mandate that requires it to advise the federal government on scientific and technical matters. Dr. Frank Pre" is president of the National Academy of Sciences. The National Academy of Engineering was established in 1~, under the charter of the National Academy of Sciences, as a parallel organization of outstanding engineers. It is autonomous in its administration and in the selection of its members, sharing with the National Academy of Scienc" the responsibility for advising the federal government. The National Academy of Engineering also sponsors engineering programs aimed at meeting national needs, encourages education and research, and recognizes the superior achievements of engineers. Dr. Robert M. White is president of the National Academy of Engineering. The Institute of Medicine was established in 1970 by the National Academy of Sciences to secure the services of eminent members of appropriate professions in the examination of policy matters pertaining to the health of the public. The Institute acts under the responsibility given to the National Academy of Sciences by its congressional charter to be an adviser to the federal government and, upon its own initiative, to identify issues of medical care, research, and education. Dr. Samuel O. Thier is president of the Institute of Medicine. The National Research Council was organized by the National Academy of Sciences in 1916 to associate the broad community of science and technology with the Academy's purposes of furthering knowledge and of advising the federal government. Functioning in accordance with general policies determined by the Academy, the Council has become the principal operating agency of both the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering in providing services to the government, the public, and the scientific and engineering communities. The Council is administered jointly by both Academies and the Institute of Medicine. Dr. Frank Press and Dr. Robert M. White are chairman and Rice chairman, respectively, of the National Research Council. This project is supported by Contract No. 600-88-0163 between the Social Security Administration and the National Academy of Sciences. Available from: Board on Telecommunications and Computer Applications Commission on Engineering and Technical Systems National Research Council 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W. Washington' D.C. 20418 Printed in the United States of America
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COMMITTEE ON REVIEW OF THE SSA's SYSTEM MODERNIZATION PLAN (SMP) AND AGENCY STRATEGIC PLAN (ASP) WILLIS H. WARE, The RAND Corporation, Chairman LAWRENCE E. BACON, The Travelers Companies B. GARLAND CUPP, American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc. JEROME I. ELKIND, Xerox Corporation (Retired)* LYNN W. ELLIS, University of New Haven JAMES C. EMERY, University of Pennsylvania PETER D. GROSS, Computer Sciences Corporation CASIMIR A. KULIKOWSKI, Rutgers University RICHARD T. LlEBHABER, MCI Communications Corporation GARY R. NELSON, Systems Research and Applications Corporation CHARLES H. SHORTER, TRW Information Systems Group EDGAR H. SIBLEY, George Mason University GIO WIEDERHOLD, Stanford University Staff ANTHONY M. FORTE, Study Director BENJAMIN J. LEON, Senior Staff Officer LINDA L. JOYNER, Project Assistant * Member until 5/22/89. · · —
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BOARD ON TELECOMMUNICATIONS AND COMPUTER APPLICATIONS CHARLES STEPHENS, TRW Electronics & Defense Sector (Retired), Chairman JORDAN J. BARUCH, Jordan Baruch Associates, Inc. GEORGE A. BEKEY, University of Southern California DANIEL BELL, American Academy of Arts and Sciences HERBERT D. BENINGTON, UNISYS Defense Systems DAVID it. FARBER, University of Pennsylvania JAMES L. FLANAGAN, AT&T Bell Laboratories ROBERT Y. HUANG, TRW Space Technology Group (Retired) ROBERT L. MARTIN, Bell Communications Research JOHN C. McDONALD, Continental Telecommunications, Inc. WILLIAM F. MILLER, SRI International JOEL MOSES, Massachusetts Institute of Technology HENRY M. RIVERA, Dow, Lohnes and Albertson ERIC E. SUMNER, AT&T Bell Laboratories GEORGE L. TURIN, University of California, Berkeley KEITH W. UNCAPHER, University of Southern California ANDREW J. VITERBI, University of California, San Diego WILLIS H. WARE, The RAND Corporation BARRY H. WHALEN, MCC Corporation Staff JOHN M. RICHARDSON, Director ANTHONY M. FORTE, Senior Staff Officer BENJAMIN J. LEON, Senior Staff Officer CARLITA M. PERRY, Staff Associate KAREN LAUGHLIN, Administrative Coordinator LINDA L. JOYNER, Project Assistant 1V
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PREFACE - The Social Security Administration (SSA), together with the computer and communications facilities which it operates, can be characterized as huge in both absolute and relative terms. At the SSA nothing is small; little is easy to accomplish; and change comes with difficulty. Historically the SSA followed the same automation trail as did other contemporary organizations in the 1940s--with punched paper cards and electric accounting machines (EAM) for processing. Gradually SSA migrated to digital computers to process the card-based data in batches. Then the punched card files gave way to magnetic tapes for storing data, but the processing of this information continued to be performed in batches. In the last five to seven years the SSA has taken significant strides toward modernizing its claims process for entitlements through the application of information technology. To support taking claims electronically the agency developed new computer programs, moved its magnetic tape files onto magnetic disk, and installed about 25,000 computer terminals nationwide. While the front end of the process for taking entitlement claims has thus become technologically contemporary, the massive processing is still done on a periodic basis in batches at the National Computer Center. In no area of the SSA is automation complete. In some parts of the agency there is continuing high level of reliance on paper-based manual methods, a situation which it is advisable to remedy. The ancestry of SSA data processing is still evident in its batch processing and in the legacy of old software that now runs on modern hardware albeit inefficiently. Some of its present practices and procedures, its present lineup of batch runs, and its present management attitudes and internal organization reflect former days and still have vestiges of past batch operations. In time the heritage will fade, but for the moment it is a fact of life when considering bringing about change in SSA's information environment or when requiring SSA to respond to externally imposed changes in policy and rules. The policy that controls SSA derives primarily from Congress and from its parent cabinet department, the Department of Health and Human Services. Over the years various changes have been instituted by creating new programs, changing the details of others, or creating special categories of people with individualized benefits. A data processing organization might be inclined to regard such collective changes as tinkering with the requirements that the information infrastructure must meet. In a sense tinkering it is because the large overall structure will be little different, and the mandated changes are seemingly ~ ~ , ~ ~ . . . . . . v
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I minor adjustments. What is not visible from policy levels are the intricate and extensive consequences throughout hundreds of computer programs, millions of computer instructions, and tightly organized procedures of an information factory. The SSA's intrinsic problem is one compounded of mammoth size, an external expectation for inherent agility to accept change, a built-in inertia that impedes change, often late-breaking changes, and all overlaid with a demand for maximum accuracy and stable operations. So far as the nation is concerned the SSA is a big information production line that must deliver checks to its clientele consistently and with certainty. Jiggling the SSA into a different posture on short notice is akin to attempting overnight retooling of an automobile production line to make cars that are seemingly changed little--just a few inches longer. It would be a major engineering feat to design an information system from scratch to support the SSA. In a way, it borders on the remarkable that a system that has evolved to its current posture over some 30 years in the face of Congressional changes and sometimes reluctance to fund computer upgrades works as well as it does. Yet improve it must; keep up with change it must; become a contemporary information-based organization it must; and do it all with best economy and efficiency. But the SSA has not always fulfilled such expectations. Our report examines this complicated situation. It looks at the SSA efforts to improve in recent years, and it considers future trends and desired future actions. An effort of this kind depends on many people and the contribution of each of them s gratefully acknowledged. On the SSA side, of course, we owe much to former Commissioner Dorcas R. Hardy and to present Commissioner Gwendolyn S. King. Also crucial to our work was the intensive liaison provided by Deputy Commissioners Herbert R. Doggette, Jr. and John R. Dyer, Chief Financial Officer Norman Goldstein, the many other executives and staff of the agency who briefed us and fielded our probing insistent questions, and John Ryan (of the Commissioner's staff) who has been our point of contact. From the National Research Council side, we were ably supported by senior staff officer Anthony M Forte, his secretary Linda L. Joyner, and other staff individuals of the Board on Telecommunications and Computer Applications. Willis H. Ware Chairman V1
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CONTENTS EXECUTIVE SUMMARY 1 INTRODUCTION 2 SYSTEMS MODERNIZATION JUST PAST 13 The Systems Modernization Plan, 13 Software Engineering Methods, 19 References, 24 3 THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE IN THE PRESENT 25 Level of Service, 28 Continuity of Service, 29 Decision Making, 32 Manual Processing, 35 Degree of Functional Integration, 38 Office Automation, 40 References, 41 4 STRATEGIES FOR THE FUTURE 43 Agency Strategic Plan, 43 An Architecture for Information, 47 References, 56 APPENDIXES A. Work Statement, 57 B. List of Presentations to the Committee on Review of SSA's System Modernization Plan (SMP) and Agency Strategic Plan (ASP), 59 C. SSA's Functions and Information Flows, 65 D. Letter Report to Dorcas R. Hardy, without attachments, 75 E. Glossary, 81 -- · ~ V11
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