Social Security Administration's mega-modernization effort threatened, GAO reports

The General Accounting Office reported last week that continued success of the Social Security Administration's $1 billion modernization effort is threatened by significant technical and performance measurement challenges.

According to GAO, the Intelligent Workstation/Local-Area Network (IWS/LAN) project is threatened because prime contractor Unisys Corp. is having trouble finding the outmoded 100 MHz computers required under the pact. Unisys, which was awarded the contract in June 1996, "has expressed concerns about the future availability of the intelligent workstations that SSA is acquiring—- noting that the 100 MHz workstations.are increasingly difficult to obtain," according to the GAO report.

IWS/LAN is a central part of SSA's ambitious reinvention effort to streamline the agency, reduce administrative costs, improve service and rebuild public confidence. Under the contract, IWS/LAN will supply the agency with 1,700 LANs and 56,000 workstations, enough to place a computer on nearly every employee's desk in more than 2,000 sites nationwide. The workstations will replace 1970s-vintage dumb terminals and allow SSA employees to immediately update individuals' files and quickly access SSA databases in Washington, D.C., to answer citizens' questions on the spot.

As of March 15, SSA completed the installation of about 31,261 workstations and 850 LANs as part of its Phase I installations, according to GAO. However, GAO also outlined problems in software development and concerns among some state agencies that their networks are not being adequately managed by SSA, problems that the report says could lead to delays in state efforts to become Year 2000-compliant.

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