He's committed to best service

John R. Dyer

John R. Dyer has been the Social Security Administration's principal deputy commissioner and chief information officer since January 1996. As CIO, Dyer leads SSA's efforts to meet goals in disability re-engineering, system investments and strategic planning. He also is chairman of the agency's Management Oversight Council and oversees the Fraud Control and Prevention Oversight Committee. GCN talked to Dyer about SSA's past, present and future challenges.

DYER: We've accomplished a lot over the past two years. We're the Y2K leaders in government. We're also wrapping up the installation of the Intelligent Workstation/LAN project. It's been a massive effort, and we now have a very good infrastructure in place.

Other areas of emphasis include asking how can we use systems to improve our productivity and customer service. We now have software in place for notices so that when we get a call or somebody comes into an office, employees can bring up a notice on the screen.

Another area of emphasis is our Title II, a retirement, survivors and disability insurance program. We've been able to automate a lot of its back end.

We're also bringing online the paperless initiative in our processing centers. When paper comes in, we image it and pull it out onto the screen.

Izella Robinson uses a Compaq Deskpro EP running Microsoft Windows 95. The management analyst works in the Owings Mills, Md., SSA office in suburban Baltimore that oversees the operation of 24 agency offices in the Mid-Atlantic region. Owings Mills received a 266-MHz Pentium II with 64M of RAM and a 4G hard drive as part of SSA's Intelligent Workstation/LAN rollout of 56,500 PCs to 1,742 SSA offices.

We're also expanding CHIP'the Customer Help Initiative Program. We take employees that do certain work and move them over so they can handle toll-free calls. When a question comes up, CHIP gives employees background information and helps them with the calculation so they can deliver very good customer service.

In terms of current challenges, Commissioner Kenneth Apfel recently issued a report on improving the management of the Supplemental Security Income program. A large part of the initiative involves doing additional computer matching with other agencies to verify income. The initiative also involves doing more frequent matching, going from quarterly to monthly matches using automation.

We also want to get our systems automated so that we can put notices out in different languages. We want to broaden that capacity so that when clients call us, we automatically know that English is their primary language.

Looking to the future, we're obviously wrestling with where we're going with the Internet. And it's not just the Internet; you're also seeing multiple platforms where the Internet is just a precursor of how you can handle some of the data coming in over the screen. We have phone traffic. We have walk-in traffic. We even do videoconferencing. Now they're all going to merge. We're starting to ask how do you handle that.

Another challenge is security. We tried making Personal Earnings and Benefit Estimate Statements available online a couple of years ago, but backed off. You have to be vigilant with distributed systems. You have to be very careful where you have modems and where you don't. You need to toughen up passwords and limit access. We want to be sure that if the customer wants to come at us from the Internet, we're in the position to start handling business that way.

SSA is also committed to making certain improvements in our service base. We want to give employers verification the following day.

We're also committed to taking more traffic over the 800 number and taking claims over the phone. With wage reporting, we want to begin taking the 200 million wage reports a year from employers electronically. We've committed to have a system in place by the year 2000. This is good for everybody. It's good for the employer, making it simpler to get the information to us.

Major programs

Intelligent Workstation/LAN'Unisys Corp. in June 1996 received a seven-year, $280 million contract to install PCs at 1,742 agency offices nationally. Of the 56,500 PCs, 12,900 are Pentium IIs: 266-MHz Compaq Deskpro EPs running Microsoft Windows 95 with 64M of RAM and a 4G hard drive. Unisys completed the rollout in May.

Enterprise Technology Services'Lockheed Martin Corp. in September 1998 received a seven-year, $115 million contract to provide support services to cover software design, development, testing, documentation, and independent verification and validation. The con- tract was a follow-on to a five-year, $68 million contract Lockheed Martin received in January 1994.

Connectivity Acquisition'IBM Corp. in September 1993 received a five-year, $23 million contract to install a minimum of 50 and a maximum of 150 LANs nationwide, giving interconnectivity for agency workstations. Big Blue also provided LAN system administration software, end-user training and maintenance.

Integrated Image-Based Capture System'Computer Sciences Corp. in April 1993 received an eight-year, $17 million contract to integrate a commercial image-based data capture system to support data processing at the Data Operations Center in Wilkes Barre, Pa., and the Modernized Earning System at the National Computer Center in Baltimore. The system will also support SSA's Albuquerque, N.M., and Salinas, Calif., data centers.

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