The Social Security Administration needs to develop comprehensive metrics to effectively gauge the information technology modernization project it has undertaken over the past decade, the Government Accountability Office said in a new report.
Since 2001, SSA has spent approximately $5 billion on the modernization of its systems.
The agency has undertaken hundreds of modernization projects each year from 2001 to 2011, and officials identified 120 such initiatives they considered key investments in modernization. About two-thirds of these projects were for modernizing and enhancing existing systems, while other efforts were aimed at moving from manual to electronic processes and online access and the development of new or redesigned system software.
These efforts also enhanced work processes, automated notices to beneficiaries, and modified systems to accommodate legislation, among other things. Nonetheless, SSA still has major efforts under way to transition from its aging systems to a more modernized IT environment. Specifically, in order to help meet the agency’s key strategic goal of strengthening its infrastructure and further enhancing its online services, SSA intends to streamline its operations and reduce duplication in databases to allow for more efficient maintenance.
GAO said SSA lacks updated and comprehensive plans to guide its modernization efforts. SSA developed an IT strategic plan in 2007 to guide its modernization efforts, but that plan has not been updated to reflect the agency’s revised strategic goals.
In addition, GAO said, the agency has an enterprise architecture, which is important for guiding the execution of IT strategic goals, but it is missing important elements, such as performance milestones and an agency road map. Consequently, SSA has been making investments in modernization without guidance of long-term plans and risks that these investments may not align with the agency’s priorities.
GAO neither agreed or disagreed with GAO’s recommendations, but described steps it is taking to address elements of the recommendations.