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Comments were presented on GAO audit work directed at evaluating automatic data processing (ADP) activities at the Social Security Administration (SSA). GAO identified long-standing ADP system weaknesses at SSA, which include: (1) inadequate ADP-related planning; (2) deficiencies in system development and software; (3) problems in acquiring and effectively using computer hardware; and (4) difficulties in providing adequate privacy protection and security for systems components and personal beneficiary records.
GAO believes that these weaknesses are largely responsible for the very serious ADP problems SSA is currently experiencing. The ADP systems of SSA are generally inefficient and ineffective. Further, SSA has limited resources available to maintain current systems and bring about needed improvements. Solving these problems will require the implementation of a comprehensive corrective action plan, which SSA has begun working on.
This plan includes a number of short-term agency actions designed to help lessen the software, hardware, and personnel problems currently plaguing the ADP systems and operations of SSA. These actions include: (1) undertaking a more disciplined, structured approach to documenting computer software; (2) proceeding with the nationwide telecommunications network upgrade; (3) continuing the purchase of more computer memory capacity; (4) exploring innovative but acceptable ways of further augmenting computer capacity to process current as well as future workloads; (5) conducting computer programmer training classes for selected employees; and (6) proceeding with the relocation of ADP operations to the new SSA computer building.
To succeed, SSA will need support and assistance from executive agencies. To ensure the assistance and support of Congress, GAO believes periodic congressional oversight of the efforts of SSA to develop and implement its corrective action plan would enhance the likelihood of the agency's success.