TSP board’s 5-year plan focuses on cybersecurity

A consolidated customer service operation touted as a bar raiser for Thrift Savings Plan participant services is moving to the backburner as the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board prioritizes cybersecurity and infrastructure in its strategic plan.

ExPRESS, which is like a bundling of front and back end operations for the FRTIB, will be paused, said the board’s Director of Enterprise Planning Renee Wilder Guerin.

“Our focus is going to be on addressing our cybersecurity and infrastructure fixes in our...

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A consolidated customer service operation touted as a bar raiser for Thrift Savings Plan participant services is moving to the backburner as the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board prioritizes cybersecurity and infrastructure in its strategic plan.

ExPRESS, which is like a bundling of front and back end operations for the FRTIB, will be paused, said the board’s Director of Enterprise Planning Renee Wilder Guerin.

“Our focus is going to be on addressing our cybersecurity and infrastructure fixes in our current environment,” Wilder Guerin said during the July 25 FRTIB board meeting in Washington. “We know where we want to be in five years. Our strategic plan provides the road map for us getting there, for us building a stronger and more sustainable infrastructure, which allows us to then build the enhanced participant experience. That experience will give our participants greater flexibility and data that will help allow them to make better decisions.”

FRTIB administers the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), which is like a 401(k) for federal employees. ExPRESS, as recently as May, was called “state-of-the-art” and an “end-to-end view” of participant interactions with TSP, designed to improve customer service.

Wilder Guerin said when it came to looking at where the agency needs to head throughout the next five years, it was important to focus on the things that had already been identified as priorities and mandates.

“We knew that we had constraints, so we took the time to rack and stack all the activities going on in the agency, and so we took a look at our road map and we measured those against a series of criteria, and we looked at all the activities and whether they were mitigating risks, whether it was legislatively mandated, is it something that we’ve made a commitment on and does it address or close a performance gap or is it a service enhancement,” Wilder Guerin said. “In addition, we had to consider whether these activities were competing for the same resources. This is most critical in our IT area, where the focus is on maintaining and securing systems.”

At a board member’s request, Wilder Guerin said she would provide a more detailed plan that includes growth projections, sizing and scope of investments during that five-year time frame.

FRTIB received nearly $220 million in 2016. The board is scheduled to present its 2017 budget later this summer.

Wilder Guerin said during her presentation that the strategic plan has a three-point focus: dialogue, delivery and data.

“Provide dialogue with our participants, delivery of expanded plan services and features and improved access visualization, and analysis of data to facilitate improved participant outcomes,” Wilder Guerin said.

Wilder Guerin said ExPRESS and other efforts related to human resources as well as other enterprise resource plans will have to wait and be included the board’s Target Architecture Plan for IT.

“To the extent that these activities can be done without engaging our IT resources they can advance, but at the point in which they engage IT resources, they get stopped,” Wilder Guerin said.

Among the mandates she mentioned is the blended retirement project for military members.

Under the retirement system that’s been in effect since the late 1940s, troops earn guaranteed pensions based on a mathematical multiplier that delivers 50 percent of their basic pay for the rest of their lives, assuming they retired at 20 years of service. (Service members who served fewer than 20 years received nothing).

The reforms Congress passed in December reduced that 20-year retiree’s pension to 40 percent of their basic pay. To make up the difference, the government will make automatic 1 percent contributions to all members’ TSP accounts once they’ve served at least three years and match up to 4 percent of service members’ voluntary investments.

The changes take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

“We are going to do the work that needs to be done to accept the new auto enrollment of the uniformed services population and we’ll be ready prior to Jan. 1, 2018,” Wilder Guerin said. “The bottom line, this is about what are we focusing on, what are we going to be doing in the near term, and always it’s about ensuring the reliability of our daily operations. We’ve talked a lot about hardening our cybersecurity posture. We’re going to build the new IT architecture, we’re going to respond to and remediate audit findings.”

Ongoing audits and findings

The board also received an update on the various audits in the past year as well as recommendations.

An audit of the daily investment process produced four findings and 14 recommendations.

The findings were:

  • Access privilege within the applications used for daily investment processing needs to be adjusted to reflect users’ roles and responsibilities.
  • Automation of manual transactions to reduce risk of errors and correction of forfeiture restorations.
  • Excessive system administrator/contractor support staff.
  • Terminated accounts not deleted according to policy.

The first two findings were closed as of May 31.

The Labor Department — which helps oversee the board — also provided numbers on the past year of audits. They include:

  • 7 agency-related task orders
  • 48 new agency recommendations
  • 15 closed agency recommendations

The recommendations range from data encryption to call center technical security controls to database software monitoring and hardware maintenance.

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