The Social Security Administration — which saw its staff shrink 6 percent last year — warned Congress last month it cannot keep up with swelling workloads as baby boomers retire and more Americans file for benefits. ...With the White House and Congress facing increasing pressure to cut the deficit — and steep cuts looming in January as part of the sequestration process — budgets are certain to get even tighter. And some experts fear Congress will continue cutting budgets without scaling back agencies’ missions, which will force some agencies to cut staffing to dangerous levels. ...“If you keep ratcheting down, at some point something breaks,” said John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service....“Unfortunately, it keeps going until we run into a [Federal Emergency Management Agency] that can’t respond to [Hurricane] Katrina, or the 9/11 Commission says part of the problem was that we didn’t have enough people in intelligence agencies to pick up on the 9/11 threat,” Palguta said. ...SSA Commissioner Michael Astrue told the Senate Finance Committee on May 17 that staffing cuts are already hurting his agency’s ability to serve the public. To deal with a nearly 4,500-employee decline in 2011, SSA had been relying on overtime and having employees stay late to interview and help members of the public.But budget cuts have forced SSA to cut out most overtime. SSA’s $11.5 billion fiscal 2012 budget is about $1 billion less than Obama requested, and about $400 million less than the agency had in fiscal 2010. As a result, Astrue said, SSA began closing field offices to the public a half-hour early each day to make sure employees finish up their interviews during their regular work hours.And Astrue fears he may be forced to cut staffing even further — between 2,500 and 3,000 employees this year and another 2,000 or more in fiscal 2013. That would force SSA to close its offices even earlier next year, he said.“I recently visited our Springfield, Mass., office, and the waiting room was filled to capacity,” Astrue said. “The office has lost 11 employees, 19 percent of its staff, in the last few years. We are doing what we can to assist this office, including implementing a video connection with another office, but few offices have excess capacity to help.”
Jun 21, 2012
Creating Two, Three, Many Katrinas?
From the Federal Times: