Social Security Taps Team of Federal IT, Management Notables to Assess Modernization Progress

Archival photo of government employees file citizens applications for Social Security numbers, circa 1937.

Archival photo of government employees file citizens applications for Social Security numbers, circa 1937. Everett Historical/

The team will look at how the agency’s IT modernization efforts are going, including how those changes are affecting Social Security employees and stakeholders.

The Social Security Advisory Board is calling in an “A-team” to help the agency meets its IT modernization goals.

The agency announced an 11-member IT Systems Expert Panel that will spend the next year assessing Social Security’s development and modernization processes, including how those efforts are affecting stakeholders in and out of the agency.

The work—set to begin this fall, with a report due in early fiscal 2021—will focus on the 2017 IT Modernization Plan, which enumerates six goals:

  1. Improve service to the public through increasing online services, real-time processing, and having a more service-centric organization, technical structure and overall better customer experience.
  2. Increase the value of IT for business by increasing IT and data reliability, security and enabling faster claim and post-entitlement decisions.
  3. Improve IT workforce engagement by enabling a quicker path to fielding new capabilities, modernizing the development environment to improve productivity and building a culture to attract new and retain our current top technology talent.
  4. Improve business workforce engagement by enabling better service with enhanced user-centric tools and the ability to move routine work through the systems quickly, enabling our workforce to focus more on the most challenging service needs.
  5. Reduce IT and other operating costs through expanding shared services, the cloud and commercial off-the-shelf packages, increasing benefits available through disciplined approaches and reuse of code, and encouraging innovation to improve operational efficiency.
  6. Reduce risk to continuity of operations by increasing awareness of cyber threats and capacity to defend against these threats, and by replacing time-worn systems with maintainable technology.

The advisory panel will be led by Alan Balutis, a distinguished fellow and senior director of North American Public Sector Cisco Systems’ Business Solutions Group who served as the first chief information officer at the Commerce Department. Balutis was also a founding member of the Federal CIO Council before departing for the private sector.

“Few things are more important to our nation than Social Security benefits when one retires and ages,” Balutis told Nextgov.

Balutis said he does not have a hard list of goals for the panel yet, other than meeting the mission ascribed by the agency. Those specifics will get worked out when the panel convenes its first meeting in late September.

The rest of the board is made up of a host of familiar names, most of whom have done stints in federal government. The members include:

  • Dan Chenok, executive director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government and former Office of Management and Budget branch chief for information policy and technology.
  • Nani Coloretti, senior vice president for financial and business strategy at the Urban Institute and a former deputy secretary of the Housing and Urban Development Department.
  • Renato “Renny” DiPentima, former deputy commissioner and CIO of the Social Security Administration.
  • Martha Dorris, former deputy associate administrator of the Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at the General Services Administration.
  • William Eggers, executive director of Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights and one of the few not to have officially worked in government. However, Eggers has written several books on public administration and served on OMB’s Performance Measurement Advisory Committee.
  • Mark Forman, vice president of digital government for Unisys Federal Systems and the first administrator of OMB’s Office of E-Government and IT.
  • Greg Giddens, partner at Potomac Ridge Consulting, who served in many roles at the Veterans Affairs Department, including principal executive director of the Office of Modernization and as chief acquisition officer.
  • Dave McClure, leader of transformational IT initiatives at Accenture Federal Services and former associate administrator of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies at GSA.
  • Mark Richert, director of public policy for the National Disability Institute and the other board member not to have served in government.
  • Jim Williams, partner at Schambach & Williams Consulting and former commissioner of GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service, among many other federal titles, including with the Homeland Security Department and IRS.

“I really am thrilled with the makeup of this panel,” Balutis said. “I ‘overbooked’ with my requests for folks to join with the expectation that many wouldn’t be able to join—too busy, whatever. Nobody declined! I am so excited—such an outstanding group of folks and exceptional expertise in and experience with major IT systems implementations.”

Editor's Note: This article was updated to correct that the Social Security Advisory Board formed the panel.