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Social Security Administration's $300 million side show

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The Lois Lerner email debacle is a testament to the government’s inability to manage technology and yet the U.S. government spends more money on technology than any other organization worldwide.

If there’s money to be wasted, be sure your federal government will find a way to do it; but when it comes to technology they might as well just hand out checks. If healthcare.gov didn't convince you that the federal government has no business in the technology world, consider the following recent example:

In 2008, in the wake of a spike in disability applications, the Social Security Administration decided it was time to update their computer systems. Now, six years and after spending nearly $300 million, the federal government has another raging success on its hands. The new system is another demonstration of mismanagement, out-of-control spending and isn’t likely to come online any time in the foreseeable future.

When originally commissioned, the project was slated for completion by 2011; now nearly six years late the Social Security Administration is projecting it will take another two to three years before the new system is in operation; though the agency states they have no clear idea as to when the system will actually be finished or what the final cost will be. Perhaps they never needed the system in the first place?

Nine years after conception of the new system technology has progressed four or five times. Will the end product be obsolete before the first user logs on?

Disability claims applications are routinely delayed unreasonably but the system to fix the problem is delayed even more.

After plunging $288 million into a sink hole, the Social Security Administration has decided to start all over again. Welcome to your tax dollars at work.

An independent auditor found the project a huge undertaking with no one running the show. Not a single person is in charge of insuring the project would ever be completed.

As recommended by the auditor’s report, acting Social Security Commissioner Carolyn Colvin appointed an assistant deputy commissioner of the Social Security Administration to oversee the project.

The deputy said, "We asked for this, this independent look, and we weren't afraid to hear what the results are. We are absolutely committed to deliver this initiative and by implementing the recommendations we obtained independently, we think we have a very good prospect on doing just that."

The auditor’s report comes at an inauspicious time for Barack Obama’s Social Security Administration commissioner nominee Carolyn W. Colvin. Barack Obama nominated Colvin to a full six-year term in June and she faces confirmation by the Senate where questions on the agency’s latest technology debacle are certain to be asked.

While Colvin might be dreading the Senate confirmation hearings, her problems won’t end there. The House Oversight Committee is starting to take a hard look into the program and whether the Social Security Administration officials tried to bury the auditor’s report. In a letter to Colvin on Wednesday, committee leaders requested all documents and communications about the computer project since March 1.

The letter, signed by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the Oversight committee, Reps. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, and James Lankford, R-Okla., called the disability project "an IT boondoggle."

As if things couldn't be worse for Ms. Colvin, the Social Security Administration’s disability program is on the brink of financial collapse. The trust fund that supports Social Security's disability program will have expended all funds during 2016, when there will only be enough income from payroll taxes to cover 80 percent of benefits. The last thing the Social Security Administration needed to do was blow $300 million dollars.

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