IT Modernization

SSA nominee 'scared' of legacy IT, shares priorities

NOTE: This article first appeared on FCW.com.

Andrew Saul, President Donald Trump's pick to head the Social Security Administration, shared his IT priorities during his conformation hearing this week.

He told the Senate Finance Committee that he plans to make IT modernization, data sharing and cybersecurity top priorities.

At his Oct. 2 confirmation hearing, members of the committee expressed concern about the pace of IT modernization and security vulnerabilities in SSA systems, given the breadth of personal information they hold.

"I'm scared to death of the systems," Saul told senators. "I expect to spend a tremendous amount of my time reviewing the whole systems that are currently in force."

Saul, who chaired the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board under George W. Bush, testified that if confirmed, IT modernization would be "one of the most important parts of my job."

Saul also said tech would play a big role in reducing the two-year backlog of disability claims.

"The only way we’re going to be able to do this is to have modern systems," he said.

The agency does appear to be making progress in its IT overhaul. SSA CIO Rajive Mathur told a House panel last week that the SSA plans to invest $691 million over five years, including $280 million in fiscal year 2018, to dramatically modernize its IT infrastructure. This plan includes the overhaul of the disability claims processing system, which is currently being rolled out.

Saul promised a "top to bottom" review of the modernization plan if he is confirmed.

The Government Accountability Office has already pointed out one way to improve SSA’s IT management: further empowering its CIO.

Another priority, Saul said, is addressing the workforce — both in making sure the agency has adequate tech talent and reviewing the agency’s current management structure.

"That's another piece I will be spending a tremendous amount of time over the next, hopefully, year if I'm confirmed," he said.

Saul would be the first Senate-confirmed SSA commissioner since 2013, and would serve the duration of a six-year term scheduled to end Jan. 19, 2019.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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