SSA's Transfer of Research Personnel to Operating Units

HRD-85-55: Published: Mar 29, 1985. Publicly Released: Apr 11, 1985.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Social Security Administration's (SSA) transfer of personnel from major components of its research office to its operating unit. GAO addressed the issues concerning whether: (1) the transfer would hinder the ability to forecast the needs of the system; (2) the action is contrary to the legislative mandate for SSA to perform policy analysis; and (3) the action is contrary to the need for independent policy analysis connected with proposed independent agency action.

As part of it reorganization, SSA created three new program offices which are responsible for evaluating or developing their own operational policy. To support the operational policy initiatives in each newly created program office, SSA transferred personnel from its research office to the new offices, eliminating four divisions. GAO found that: (1) the shift from social to operational research reflects the SSA view of how the system's needs can best be addressed; (2) the legislative mandate to perform policy analysis and research does not establish requirements regarding the extent of studies, and allows administrative discretion concerning social research performed; and (3) a congressional panel studied the establishment of SSA as an independent agency and proposed both an administrator and an advisory board to establish policy and determine the type of research needed to support policy analysis.

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