Status of Social Security Field Office Space Needs

HRD-81-64: Published: Mar 24, 1981. Publicly Released: Mar 24, 1981.

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GAO testified before two congressional subcommittees on problems the Social Security Administration (SSA) was having with the General Services Administration (GSA) in obtaining adequate field office space in a timely manner. During the hearings, GAO was requested to continue looking into this matter. GAO agreed to furnish information on the number of SSA field office space requests satisfied by GSA during fiscal year (FY) 1980 and the change in the number of requests outstanding between the beginning and end of the FY. In addition, since questions arose about the feasibility of delegating leasing authority to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to handle SSA space needs, GAO agreed to obtain information from two agencies that had been delegated leasing authority and provide some further perspectives based on actual experience.

According to SSA data, at the beginning of FY 1980, 392 of a total of 446 backlogged SSA space requests were identified. Although GSA significantly reduced the SSA priority list of field office requests, it did not keep pace in handling new requests for field office space received from SSA. On the basis of experience with SSA and testimony at the hearings, GSA should have expected about 200 of the total 244 new requests it received for field office space from SSA during the year. In addition, GSA did not make progress in reducing the overall backlog. According to SSA, the performance of GSA in FY 1980 was not satisfactory. SSA, HHS, and GSA did not agree on when a space request should be considered completed. SSA and HHS officials view a space request as unsatisfied and pending until the office is occupied. However, a GSA official said that a space request is considered completed when the lease is awarded even though occupancy is delayed. A recent SSA study of pending space requests found that the average time a space action was pending at GSA ranged from 367 to 801 days. Even with the variances in the data obtained, GAO concluded that the variances do not preclude using the data as an indicator of the overall performance of GSA.

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