It takes an act of Congress ...

March 1, 2011
As a Generation Xer who cynically believes that each year I get farther away from retirement rather than closer to it, I long ago gave up on the notion...

As a Generation Xer who cynically believes that each year I get farther away from retirement rather than closer to it, I long ago gave up on the notion that I will ever receive a Social Security payment from the United States government. In that vein, recently I began watching the Frontline episode entitled "Can you afford to retire?" Even though it was produced before the global economic meltdown of 2008, the program seemed to do a prescient job of offering gloom-and-doom to Baby Boomers and the generations that follow them.

I say "seemed to do" because I was unable to stay awake for the show's entirety. I'm thankful that my three children exhaust me to the point of collapse on a regular basis because, had I mustered the energy to watch the rest of that Frontline episode, I bet I would have been unable to sleep afterward.

Before this turns into a political rant, which I'm sure is not what you come here to read, I told the above story because even if I did have a high level of confidence in our country's Social Security Administration (SSA), that optimism would have been dashed after reading some of the testimony recently given to a joint Congressional subcommittee concerning the state of the SSA's data center. (See page 37 for more detail.)

In early February, the SSA's deputy commissioner of systems Kelly Croft described the unsightly state of the cabling systems beneath the raised floor of the administration's National Computer Center (NCC).

Croft said, "We face ... fundamental problems at the NCC, such as tangled and overcrowded telecommunications and electrical cables beneath the data center floor. Tangled cables can block the underfloor airflow that cools our servers, and we cannot work on the cables safely without shutting down the affected systems.

"Similarly," he noted, "troubleshooting problems is difficult when we cannot isolate cable pairs easily to determine whether problems exist in the cables or in the IT equipment. There is also an elevated risk of data corruption, because electromagnetic interference from the electrical wires that are located too close to the telecommunications wires can distort data transmission."

Plans for the SSA's new data center apparently are already years behind schedule. Even though I'm not expecting a Social Security payment in the future, I do think it'd be wortwhile to alert my Congressional representatives to the sad state of the SSA's data center. Maybe you could too.

PATRICK McLAUGHLIN
Chief Editor
[email protected]

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