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Johnson Opening Statement: Joint Hearing on Managing Costs and Mitigating Delays in the Building of the Social Security Administration’s New National Computer Center

February 11, 2011

Welcome to the first hearing of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security in the 112th Congress. 

I especially want to welcome the new Members of the Subcommittee and our colleagues from the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Economic Development, Public Buildings, and Emergency Management, especially their new Chairman Jeff Denham.   

I also want to say how much I look forward to working with our new Subcommittee Ranking Member, and my good friend, Xavier Becerra. 

As our nation ages, more Americans are depending on Social Security’s benefits and services that they paid for through their hard earned wages.

To deliver those benefits and services, Social Security needs technology that it can count on.

Because I take the technology needs of Social Security very seriously, last year I toured the National Computer Center in Baltimore – Social Security’s technological nerve center. This center allows the agency to process applications, pay benefits and store secure data on most U.S. workers.

Two weeks ago I also visited the Second Support Center in North Carolina. 

Yet as we know Social Security’s 30-year old National Computer Center is past its prime. That’s why Congress authorized $500 million of taxpayer funds to build a new, state-of-the art data center.  
Just over a year ago our Subcommittees held a similar joint hearing to check in on Social Security’s and the General Services Administration’s progress.   Then we couldn’t get good answers as to why they decided to locate the new data center away from Social Security’s headquarters in Baltimore.  

Now, the project is already delayed a year and that’s before a single shovel has hit the ground. 

All the while, the more time passes, the higher the risk of the National Computer Center failing. 

While progress has been made, it would still take four days to restore its critical operations.  That’s not good enough and Social Security knows it.  Americans want, need and deserve better.  Today we’ll learn more about their plans to improve. 

Taxpayers are investing in a $500 million infrastructure upgrade.  The last thing they deserve is another failed stimulus project due to further delays or future cost over runs.  Social Security owes it to the American taxpayer to make good on this investment. 

Today we need to find out whether GSA and Social Security are doing everything they can to make sure this project is done right and on time, if not ahead of time.  This project should have started yesterday. 

I thank the witnesses for joining us today and presenting their expert testimony.