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Johnson Opening Statement: Hearing on the State of Social Security’s Information Technology

May 09, 2012

As our nation ages, more Americans are depending on Social Security’s benefits and services that they paid for through their hard earned wages.  These days, Social Security increasingly relies on technology to deliver the services that Americans deserve and expect.  

As you all know, I take the technology needs of Social Security very seriously.  At times it seems like I’ve been talking about Social Security’s technology for years.  I’ve toured both of Social Security’s data centers and keep close tabs on the progress of the new data center’s construction.  

Being able to count on technology depends on more than just having modern hardware and state of the art facilities- the software running on those servers is also important.  But beyond hardware and software, what really matters is the long-term strategy to keep up with all the changes in technology that seem to happen in a blink of an eye.  

That’s why I asked the Government Accountability Office to report on Social Security’s efforts to modernize its technology.  Today, I am releasing this report and we will hear about their findings from one of our witnesses.   Among its findings, the report notes how experts for years have recommended that Social Security take a longer term approach to planning for how they are going to spend taxpayers money on technology.  But it doesn’t seem like we are making any headway.  

One of those panels, was the Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel, that Commissioner Astrue created to provide independent advice and recommendations on the current status of Social Security’s technology.   This panel was also supposed to develop a roadmap to guide Social Security’s future technology modernization efforts.  This panel made recommendations to Social Security in four reports.   Unfortunately, Social Security chose to end this panel, and no longer has the benefit of their experiences.  And we still don’t have a long term plan on how Social Security is going to meet the needs of ever increasing numbers of beneficiaries.  

Americans of all ages are increasingly using technology for their everyday needs – from paying their bills to buying their groceries.  Rapid technological innovation defines the times we live in.  Social Security’s ability to serve an increasingly tech-savvy public depends on its ability to develop a modernized long-term service delivery plan with the right investments of today.  

Social Security must figure out how to use technology to drive a more efficient business process.  That’s what taxpayers expect and deserve from an agency like Social Security, which touches the lives of virtually every American.