SSA urged to adopt more open systems

CCIA recommends open systems for Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration should replace its outdated mainframe computer with proprietary architecture and move to a more open platform, according to recommendations released in a white paper  by the Computer & Communications Industry Association (CCIA).

“CCIA strongly urges the SSA to modernize its IT infrastructure and conform to open, normalized standards,” CCIA President Ed Black said in a statement today. “This would save American taxpayers millions of dollars, help solve the agency’s current backlog, enable transparency and allow the SSA to more easily harness advances in computing technology and the Internet to better serve citizens,” Black said.

CCIA commissioned the paper because the SSA’s Future Systems Technology Advisory Board is considering how to modernize the agency’s IT infrastructure. The Social Security Advisory Board produced a report on modernizing the SSA's IT systems in April.

The white paper alleges that the SSA’s systems are vulnerable because they are too reliant on outdated technology and a single supplier. A better structure for long-term accessibility would be systems available from multiple and competing sources, the paper said.

Another recommendation in the paper is for the SSA to use its buying power to insist that its current supplier for hardware, IBM Corp., work closer with hardware and software makers in the systems development life cycle.

An IBM spokesman said the CCIA’s membership includes many of IBM’s competitors, including Microsoft. “So it is hardly surprising when the CCIA makes an anti-IBM argument,” said Steve Eisenstadt, a spokesman for IBM.

SSA computer systems are believed to hold at least 30 terabytes of data. The agency received $500 million from the economic stimulus law to build a second data center. The agency recently was advised by the Government Accountability Office to do more planning for its various ongoing data exchange projects.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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