SSA budget constraints prompt reorganization

Monday - 6/27/2011, 1:39pm EDT

By Ruben Gomez
Federal News Radio

Tight budgets are forcing sweeping organizational changes at the Social Security Administration (SSA), according to an email obtained by Federal News Radio.

SSA lost $300 million for IT in the fiscal 2011 budget that Congress passed in April.

The Innovation and Investment Management units are moving out of the Office of the Chief Information Officer (CIO) to the Office of Systems (OS), Social Security Administration Commissioner Michael Astrue wrote. In addition, the Division of IT Strategy and functional responsibility for Health IT will move to OS, according to the memo.

Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin will lead the Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel, which provides advice and recommendations on the future of systems technology and electronic services for SSA. The CIO's office has also lost Ephraim Feig, former Associate CIO for Vision and Strategy, who has left SSA, Astrue wrote.

The SSA Office of Budget, Finance and Management (OFM) is also getting a makeover. "The security and emergency preparedness functions currently in the OFM will move to the newly created Associate Commissioner-level Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness," according to Astrue, who also said this is a first step in reorganizing functions in OFM.

SSA is eliminating its Office of Publications and Logistics Management, Astrue wrote "to consolidate the logistics functions in a new Office titled the Office of Facilities and Supply Management (OFSM). OPLM's publications programs will transfer to the Office of Communications (OCOMM)."

The organizational changes come as SSA tries to improve services in the face of budget cuts. Earlier in 2011, the agency lost about 3,500 positions and cancelled plans to launch new processing centers aimed at reducing a backlog of claims for disability benefits.

In response to funding reductions, SSA has improved its tele-service, Astrue told Federal News Radio in a May interview.

"That's really been the saving grace during this very difficult time, because disability and retirement applications go up in a recession, and this is a very severe recession," Astrue said. "We've got a lot more business, but we're managing it much better than we did before, and that had allowed us to survive even in a time of budget cutbacks and higher workloads."

SSA asked Congress for $12.5 billion for administrative expenses in its fiscal 2012 budget request, an increase of $300 million. But Congress has not yet approved any federal appropriations.

SSA declined an interview about the reorganization plan.

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