SSA CIO office squeezed by budget tightening

The Social Security Administration is undertaking a major realignment of personnel, including some IT staff positions, to “maximize our efficiency during these lean budget times,” SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue wrote in a memo dated June 24.

In April, Congress decreased the agency’s IT budget by $275 million for fiscal 2011, despite SSA's request for additional funds to process benefits for a huge wave of retiring baby boomers.

The functional and organizational realignment covers more than a dozen senior executive and management positions, with several office and division consolidations and reassignments. The memo also announced several retirements.

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The changes include a reduction in the size of CIO Frank Baitman’s staff, according to Astrue's memo, which was published online June 27 by the “Social Security News” blog.

SSA’s Innovation and Investment Management offices, currently part of the CIO’s office, will move to the Office of Systems, along with corresponding employees. The latter office will also take on responsibility for health IT initiatives.

Deputy CIO Greg Pace has accepted a senior adviser position with Deputy Commissioner Carolyn Colvin, who will become chairwoman of SSA’s Future Systems Technology Advisory Panel.

SSA’s Office of Vision and Strategy will be split in two, with the Division of Strategic Services going to the Office of Quality Performance and the IT strategy unit moving to the Office of Systems.

Astrue also elevated the security and emergency preparedness functions, currently part of facilities management, to a newly created Office of Security and Emergency Preparedness, to be led by Associate Commissioner Jim Bentley and Deputy Associate Commissioner Mike Kramer.

Logistics functions will be consolidated in a new Office of Facilities and Supply Management, to be led by Associate Commissioner Gary Arnold and Deputy Associate Commissioner Lydia Marshall.

SSA made the moves in response to a reduced budget. Although President Barack Obama requested $12.4 billion for the agency’s administrative expenses in fiscal 2011, Congress approved $10.8 billion, which was $25 million below the fiscal 2010 enacted level and reflected a $275 million rescission in SSA’s carryover IT funds.

The funding reductions are affecting SSA’s staffing levels, according to recent testimony before a congressional subcommittee.

“Inadequate funding of SSA in FY 2011, including rescissions, is having major repercussions for SSA, most notably with the inability to hire staff replacements,” Joseph Dirago, president of the National Council of Social Security Management Associations, told the House Ways and Means Committee's Social Security Subcommittee June 14. The organization’s members are managers in more than 1,200 SSA field offices.

“The reduced staffing levels in SSA field offices and Disability Determination Services [centers], along with significantly reduced overtime, [are] negatively impacting efforts to address key workloads such as processing disability claims,” Dirago said.

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Wed, Jul 13, 2011 Titanic-Deck-Chairs

Yes, regarding the Jun 30th post, they just move higher management positions around to mask the latest failings. There is a lack of vision at the top, and a fear of not saying "yes sir/ma'am" to whatever flows down from the higher ranks, regardless of how silly/backwards/impossible it might be, as they'll be shown the door or put into a dead-end slot. There are bright people within this organization, but they are tied down with far too many chiefs.

Thu, Jun 30, 2011 Mark

I have news flash for anyone who reads this article (Congressional delegations and Obama administration officials too); this is the tip of the iceberg. SSA is poorly managed at all levels and no amount of money will fix this issue, can anyone say fraud, waste and abuse for the amount they require to build a data center, last estimated north of $500M? There is no accountability and frankly they have no vision for the future or accountability. The leaders of this Government organization (used very loosely) build kingdoms and sit on thrones. They are not interested in developing ideas to improve process or reduce the costs associated with delivering the services in their charter; they want to maintain the status quo until they retire. The entire organization could be outsourced and in-turn would run more effectively and efficiently for the American people. If you do not believe me, simply ask the latest high-ranking official to quit, Ephraim (NLN). He was the chief technology strategist and he could not get the Commissioner to assist him in breaking the ceiling and demanding change. All tax payers should be insisting that Congress and the President demand process change and improvement in this bloated oversized entity that serves many but more importantly feeds itself first.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Steve

Maybe Congress would take their claims that they need additional funding for IT more seriously if they weren't wasting the resources they have creating baby-name apps.

Tue, Jun 28, 2011 Jerry

This isn't about cost cutting. It's about cutting waste. The CIO is ineffective so why provide them with staff.

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