The Results Act:

Observations on the Social Security Administration's June 1997 Draft Strategic Plan

HEHS-97-179R: Published: Jul 22, 1997. Publicly Released: Aug 5, 1997.

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Jane L. Ross
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the draft strategic plan submitted by the Social Security Administration (SSA), as required by the Government Performance and Results Act.

GAO noted that: (1) SSA has prepared a draft strategic plan, reflecting its new status as an independent agency, that provides a solid foundation for its consultation with the Congress and other stakeholders; (2) its draft plan is forward-looking, reflects the agency's key statutory responsibilities, and contains the six components required by the act, although some of these components could be strengthened in important ways; (3) moreover, the goals it sets out are more balanced than past agency goals; SSA has added a goal to emphasize sound program management as a complement to its existing goal to provide world-class customer service; (4) however, in some cases, the goals could be strengthened by clarifying what SSA hopes to achieve and how it plans to measure its achievement; (5) also, the success of several goals is predicated on technological improvements or changes in agency operational processes, such as SSA's initiative to redesign its disability claims process; (6) SSA has historically encountered some difficulty implementing some of these changes; (7) the plan would be more realistic and useful to the Congress and SSA if SSA addressed these difficulties; (8) in addition, the plan would benefit from SSA's: (a) more explicitly describing how certain external factors, such as technology changes, may affect goal attainment; (b) more clearly explaining how it has used and plans to use program evaluations; and (c) including a discussion on how SSA has coordinated with other agencies, such as the Department of Health and Human Services, that serve the same beneficiaries; (9) SSA's plan is structured to capture and monitor progress in meeting agencywide priorities and, as such, does not focus on specific programs or beneficiary groups; (10) as a result, the plan offers little assurance that SSA will place adequate attention on certain areas that pose the greatest management challenges; (11) specifically, SSA's draft plan does not acknowledge the fact that its Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program was recently placed on GAO's high risk list, nor does it provide a comprehensive strategy to address the problems with SSI; (12) SSA's draft plan does reflect the agency's strong reliance on improved information technology to provide world-class service and better manage its programs with its current resources; and (13) however, the plan would be strengthened by adding more detailed information on how SSA will use information technology to achieve the agency's goals and objectives.

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