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SSA draft vision calls for smaller workforce, fewer offices

May. 2, 2014 - 12:48PM   |  
By ANDY MEDICI   |   Comments

The future of the Social Security Administration is a smaller workforce, fewer office locations and more contractors, according to a draft strategic vision being produced for the Social Security Administration by the National Academy of Public Administration.

The draft, obtained by the Federal Times, offers a strategic vision of what the agency should be in 2025 – a digitally focused and smaller agency that uses automated systems to help its customers with only occasional face-to-face interaction. However, it is already drawing disagreement from at least one employees’ union.

SSA provides “direct service options (e.g. in-person, phone, online chat, video conference) in very limited circumstances, such as for complex transactions and to meet the needs of vulnerable populations” according to the draft vision, which was submitted to the agency March 10.

The draft states that technology advances will allow the agency to have a “significantly smaller and more virtual workforce” that relies more heavily on project-based employee and contractor teams.

The draft strategic vision lays out other areas of change within the agency, including:

■A more flexible grade and compensation structure that the report says will encourage employee retention.

■Greater emphasis on data analysis to anticipate customer needs and manage the performance of a more nimble workforce.

■Providing all support functions through shared services either from inside the agency or from another agency within government.

Witold Skwierczynski, the president of the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of SSA Field Operations Locals, which represents about 25,000 Social Security employees in field offices and telephone centers nationwide, said the draft plan has principles the union cannot agree with.

He said the use of online services as the primary means of customer service runs against the agency’s commitment to allow customers to choose the way they interact with the agency – whether it’s in person, by phone or online.

The draft will also eliminate much, if not all of the field structure of the agency, which means reducing staff and possibly laying off excess workers, Skwierczynski said.

“We are extremely concerned and we are alerting our workforce about it,” he said.

SSA contracted with the NAPA to conduct a study and submit a high level plan for a long-term strategic vision at the request of Congress, spokesman Mark Hinkle said. NAPA is engaging broadly with internal and external stakeholders, including employees, unions, management associations and members of Congress, he added.

“NAPA is considering all of this input as it prepares to submit its formal findings to Social Security this summer,” Hinkle said.

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