Online TSP system still balky

Thrift Savings Plan site

Federal employees and retirees still could not access parts of the Thrift Savings Plan online system this week, more than two weeks after the new Web interface was launched.

Thomas Trabucco, spokesman for the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which runs the system, acknowledged that problems were persisting and said board officials could not predict when they would be fixed.

He said in a statement that "these problems were, and still are, caused by CICS [Customer Information Control System] loops that tie up the system resources rapidly and exponentially to the point that little traffic gets through."

CICS is the communications interface for the IBM Corp. mainframe that houses the retirement system records. Trabucco said the contractor team that developed the system is trying to fix the bugs in the Web interface and develop workarounds.

The ThriftLine telephone access system is working well, he said. Its number is (504) 255-8777.

He also passed along a tip for Web users: Try the refresh button on your browser if you are denied access to the Web system. He said some users' sessions were retained in cache as having been completed, but the refresh would clear the cache.

Trabucco, who is the board's director of external affairs, said system performance was improving this week. He and other federal employees were able to access their accounts, particularly in the early morning hours, he said.

The number of complaints the board received decreased, while the number of completed transactions increased. For example, more than 2,700 transfers among TSP funds were processed overnight on two consecutive nights, July 1-2 and July 2-3, with dollar volumes exceeding $62 million each night.

However, Trabucco said board officials don't know how many of those transactions occurred via the Web. "We can't distinguish that," he said.

Meanwhile, angry federal employees continued to e-mail complaints about the system to FCW.com. "I am an [information technology] professional, and if I had attempted a conversion that fell so pitifully on its face, I know I would no longer have a job," wrote one Air Force Webmaster.

Several of those who complained said they had mailed in loan payments weeks earlier, and the payments were not posted on the system.

Asked about who was to blame for the problems, Trabucco said the board had not focused on fault. "We're working on getting the system up," he said. "Once we work through it, we'll have that information."

He said the underlying system that keeps track of federal employees' retirement accounts, which resemble the 401(k) plans in the private sector, continues to work well.

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