Audit supports Social Security progress

An audit of performance indicators supported the Social Security Administration's findings of its progress in development and protection of the agency's management information systems in fiscal 2003.

Social Security's intrusion detection system kept its mainframe computers protected from outside unauthorized access that could be detected, the recent performance audit from the agency's Office of the Inspector General showed.

Audits of performance indicators document the agency's progress in accomplishing metrics such as protecting the mainframes on which the agency's sensitive program data resides. PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP conducted the audit for the IG.

Social Security's computing environment includes mainframe systems and Unix, AS/400 and Windows servers and 50,000 workstations. It also maintains 60 firewalls.

The agency maintains five mainframes partitioned into 21 system images with about nine terabytes of data to process over 21 million transactions daily, the auditors said. The agency uses numerous software tools to detect and software controls to prevent intrusion into its network and underlying systems.

However, 'it is not possible to state that undetected infiltrations did not occur,' PriceWaterhouseCoopers said in the report. The performance metric did not include internal unauthorized access.

Social Security also completed development of major subprojects of its Unified Measurement System and Managerial Cost Accountability System plan, which together are designed to automate the process of reporting the agency's workloads and to provide better cost data.

'These improvements should enable Social Security to more effectively link their resources to costs and performance,' the auditors said. The agency will finish the most significant components of the project by 2005 and fully implement it by year-end 2008.

The agency installed a new Senior Executive Service system as planned to complete appraisals following the new performance management process.

Senior employees use the system and its five rating levels, similar to a dashboard, to evaluate progress reviews, grade executives and improve decision-making.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

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