Social Security Administration FY 2016 Discretionary and IT Budget Request Snapshot

Published: March 11, 2015


Last month the White House released its fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request and most federal departments and agencies saw notable increases in their overall discretionary and information technology (IT) budget submissions. The Social Security Administration is included in this category.

Total Discretionary Funding

The FY 2016 federal budget provides the Social Security Administration (SSA) with $12.7B in discretionary funds for FY 2016, $732M (+6.1%) above the 2015 enacted level. The FY 2016 SSA budget proposes to repeal the discretionary cap adjustments for SSA – enacted in Gramm-Rudman and amended by the Budget Control Act (BCA) – and instead shift SSA funding to mandatory funding beginning in FY 2017. (This follows an observable trend in the federal budget over the last 5+ years of shifting some discretionary spending to mandatory spending.)

Discretionary funding highlights include:

  • $101M in new budget authority to support extramural research projects to continue to test changes to the disability programs to improve program administration and reduce program dependency. Projects cover areas of disability policy research, employment support programs, retirement policy research, financial literacy and education, and evaluations of proposed or newly enacted legislation.
  • $50M for early intervention demonstrations in FY 2016, as well as a $350 million legislative proposal for mandatory funding in FYs 2017-2020 for strategies to help people with disabilities to remain in the workforce.

Social Security Administration Total IT and New Development Budgets

SSA seeks $1.7B (+6.7%) for FY 2016 IT spending, rebounding somewhat from the $271M (-15%) reduction in the FY 2015 enacted budget compared to FY 2014. Similarly, SSA is seeking to shift a slightly larger portion of their IT budget in FY 2016 to Development/Modernization/Enhancement (DME) efforts over steady state (SS) or operations and maintenance (O&M) funding categories, a bit of a reversal in course over the last few years. SSA’s $705M of total DME funds increases $118M from FY 2015 and accounts for about 42% of the total FY 2016 IT budget, compared with 38% and 37% in FY 2014 and FY 2015 respectively. (See table below.)

Noteworthy IT Programs

Looking at the specifics of SSA’s IT investments and initiatives provides insight into the agency’s immediate priorities and future direction. Here are some initiatives that stand out among others due to relative size, budget growth, and/or proportion of new development spending.

IT funding highlights include:

  • Non-Major Infrastructure DME – The second largest IT budget line at SSA, this initiative focuses on infrastructure DME costs for data center, office automation and telecommunications efforts. Of the $278.4M allocated for this investment, 275.5M (99%) is DME.
  • Non-Major IT Security Initiatives — This initiative implements security policies and controls within SSA IT and protects IT data resources from both internal and external user threats such as unauthorized access, misuse, damage, or loss. At $68.5M for FY 2016, the initiative is third among SSA’s largest IT budget lines and sees one of the largest overall budget increases of $15.2M (+28.6%). DME funding is set at $42.7M, or 62%.
  • Disability Case Processing System (DCPS) – DCPS replaces the 54 disparate DDS systems, support and maintenance processes with a common case-processing system to deliver common functionality and consistent support to each DDS. DCPS receives $55.0M in DME funds, which accounts for 92% of the total $60M budget, which ranks is fourth in size among SSA IT investments.
  • Intelligent Disability – This eighth-largest SSA IT budget line focuses on three main IT efforts: provide linkage between Electronic Disability Folder and SSA modernized systems and strategic goals, assist in reducing hearing office backlogs, and improve speed and quality of the disability process. The program receives $34.8M for FY 2016, up $6.6M (+23%) from FY 2015. DME is set at $29.1M or 84%.
  • Earnings Redesign – This initiative intends to streamline and modernize the current systems in order to ensure that records of earnings are timely and accurate. At $31.6M, this initiative receives one of the largest total budget and DME increases for FY 2016, $10.6M (+51%) and $10.1M (+58%) respectively.

After seeing the total discretionary and IT budgets drop from FY 2014 to FY 2015, SSA’s IT budget for FY 2016 has regained ground to FY 2014 levels, faster than overall discretionary spending. Further, SSA’s DME spending is rebounding faster than SSA’s total IT budget, signifying focused investment in high priority capabilities and systems that could present additional contracting opportunities.