G. Kelly Croft: SSA averts delay in check deliveries

Croft sent technicians to the hurricane-ravaged Gulf Coast to establish computer networks to restore connectivity and provide Social Security checks.

As Hurricane Katrina neared the Gulf Coast, G. Kelly Croft was more than 1,000 miles away preparing for the disaster. The assistant deputy commissioner for systems at the Social Security Administration knew he had an unprecedented crisis on his hands.

“This was certainly an unusual circumstance for us,” Croft said. “Like everybody, we were certainly watching the news stories as the weather was approaching. We were in communications with the regional office, telling them, ‘Whatever you are going to need, we are standing ready to help.’ "

As soon as the hurricane left its trail of devastation, Croft sent technicians to the Gulf Coast to establish computer networks to restore connectivity and provide Social Security checks to people who were unable to receive them in the mail.

On the ground, volunteers realized that some banks might be underwater, that many people no longer had a mailing address, and they needed their Social Security checks immediately, Croft said.

Within three days, SSA was in business at the Astrodome Evacuation Center in Houston. In the days that followed, SSA issued nearly 74,000 immediate payment checks to people affected by the Gulf Coast hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

“We were one of the first to set up in the Astrodome. We identified what needed to be done and went down and did it,” Croft said. To support the emergency response, SSA was able to tap into an extra supply of hardware that it always keeps available for emergencies. Croft also received help from a staff of volunteers who were willing to go into the storm-damaged region and set up the computer networks. The volunteers arrived and consulted with SSA’s Dallas office to learn what was needed for the recovery effort.

Service is part of the culture at SSA, even among systems employees, Croft said. “It’s not just the frontline people who interact with the public. We think about service and the people we are providing it to all the time.”

Croft described the emergency operation as a massive team effort. E-mail messages were sent back and forth, and SSA employees used their Research in Motion BlackBerries constantly, he said.

Croft’s intense work ethic did not go unnoticed. Croft was a leader in the Office of Systems’ Hurricane Katrina relief effort, said Bill Gray, SSA’s deputy commissioner for systems. “He deployed some of the most skilled systems employees to restore services to the severely damaged Gulf Coast region in record-breaking time,” Gray said.

In addition, Croft also stepped in and provided leadership to aid American citizens in a time of great tragedy, Gray said. Renato DiPentima, president and chief executive officer of SRA International, said Croft is a sharp and astute worker who is able to figure out the toughest problem.

“He’s always been the kind of person you could turn to when you needed someone to step up to a special event or challenge,” said DiPentima, a former SSA commissioner who worked with Croft at the agency.


Photos copyright 2006 Matthew Borkoski.

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