Future workload is SSA's greatest challenge

With its scores of forms online, the Social Security Administration is widely acknowledged as aggressive in exploiting information technology.

Not only is SSA ahead of the game in delivering services to customers online, but it also excels in terms of managing IT within the agency, supporters have said.

However, past initiatives have been a mixed bag of success and failure, and the agency has to do a better job of planning IT projects and chronicling their benefits, according to a General Accounting Office Performance and Accountability Series report released Jan. 17.

SSA faces significant challenges in the future, in part because of the aging population inside and outside the agency, according to the report.

By 2009, more than half of the agency's employees will be eligible for retirement, with the highest percentage in SSA's supervisory ranks, GAO reported. In 2010, 80 percent of SSA's upper-level managers will be eligible to retire.

Outside the agency, a growing proportion of customers who are not English-speaking and a rising number of mentally impaired customers will affect SSA's workload.

"SSA's already-limited information systems staff will be increasingly challenged to develop and implement new technologies, including more electronic (for example, Internet) applications to serve the public in a more convenient, cost-effective, and secure manner," according to the report.

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