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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