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

September 27, 2018

WASHINGTON, D.C. –  House Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee Hearing on the State of Social Security’s Information Technology.

CLICK HERE to watch the hearing.

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Good morning and welcome to today’s hearing on the state of Social Security’s information technology.

“Before we dive into this important subject, I would like to say a few words of thanks, since this is the last hearing I plan to hold as Subcommittee Chairman.

“As Chairman, I’ve focused on many challenges facing Social Security, including the need to: modernize the disability program; combat fraud; protect Americans from identity theft; and make sure our children and grandchildren can count on Social Security, just like seniors and individuals with disabilities do today.

“And I thank all my colleagues on the Social Security Subcommittee for the honor of serving with them on behalf of the American people. 

“I also want to thank the Subcommittee staff who work behind the scenes to help make our successes possible.  In particular, I want to recognize Amy Shuart, Kim Hildred, and Ted McCann, as well as Kathryn Olson.

“I’m proud to say that one of this Subcommittee’s recent successes is the bipartisan representative payee bill that became law earlier this year. 

“John, we did this together and I want to give you a copy of the bill.  You have been a good friend and it’s been a pleasure to lead this Subcommittee with you.  God bless you, partner.

“Now back to the issue at hand: Social Security’s information technology.

“While Social Security faces many challenges, information technology is among the most critical to providing the exceptional service Americans expect and deserve.  That’s why over the years, the Subcommittee has continued to focus on this important topic.  In fact, the first hearing that I held as Chairman back in 2011 was on replacing Social Security’s aging data center.

“Although Social Security now has modern hardware and modern data centers, its employees are still using software that is decades out of date.  About 30 percent of these legacy systems still use COBOL code, an ancient programming language that isn’t even taught in schools anymore. 

“Maintaining systems that old isn’t easy.  These outdated systems require extra training for employees.  And these systems also make it hard for Social Security to respond to needed changes quickly.  Not to mention the simple fact that it is expensive to maintain old, custom-built systems. 

“But I also have some good news to share.  After releasing a modernization plan last October, Social Security has started to make some real progress in bringing the agency’s information technology into the 21st century. 

“Social Security is undergoing a technology transformation that is long overdue.  These changes will not only make sure Social Security can quickly respond to new challenges, but also that the agency is serving Americans in a modern way.  Social Security is finally on its way to getting rid of outdated green screen technology.

“But there is still a long way to go.  It’s going to take consistent leadership at Social Security and it’s going to take continued oversight from Congress to make sure Social Security isn’t just spinning its wheels. 

“Social Security must learn from the mistakes of DCPS and other smaller projects, like ‘Click to Chat.’  This latter project ended up costing more than double what Social Security originally expected. 

“Taxpayers cannot afford IT projects that unnecessarily drag on for years or that double in cost.  Social Security must find a way to better use private sector alternatives to keep costs down and projects on schedule.   

“Having a modern IT infrastructure is going to be critical for Social Security’s future, and I look forward to hearing how Social Security can get there on time and on budget.  Americans want, need, and deserve nothing less.

“I thank our witnesses for being here today and I look forward to hearing their testimony.”