Spotlight: HHS

Which federal agency represents almost a quarter of all federal outlays and administers more grant dollars than all other federal agencies combined? The mission of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is to protect the health of all Americans and provide essential human services, especially for those who are least able to help themselves. Its motto is “Improving the health, safety, and well-being of America”; its Medicare program is the nation’s largest health insurer, handling more than 1 billion claims per year.

The agency began as the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) under President Eisenhower on April 11, 1953. In 1979, the Department of Education Organization Act created a separate Department of Education, and HEW officially became HHS on May 4, 1980.

HHS programs are administered by 11 operating divisions, including eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies. Those divisions comprise more than 300 programs covering a broad spectrum of activities, including research, public health, food and drug safety, grants and other funding, health insurance, and more. In addition to delivering essential services, HHS programs also collect useful national health and other data. All of these programs are expensive; President Obama’s FY 2013 budget request for HHS totaled a whopping $940.9 billion in outlays and proposed $76.7 billion in discretionary budget authority. The department is expected to play an increasingly significant role in the implementation of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.

The Hubert H. Humphrey Building at 200 Independence Ave., S.W., at the foot of Capitol Hill, is home to HHS headquarters. Several HHS operating divisions—including the Food and Drug Administration, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and the Health Resources and Services Administration—as well as some 6,000 employees are based in leased space in the 18-story, three-wing Parklawn Building in Rockville, Md. where, after a controversial process, the agency recently renewed for 935,000 SF and 15 more years. But the largest National Capital Area HHS facility is the campus of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Md., which houses more than 17,000 employees in 40 buildings. Other HHS agencies are located in additional leased space throughout the region.

Ten regional HHS headquarters are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco and Seattle. In addition to housing the Region 3 Headquarters, Atlanta also is home to the campus of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the offices of the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.

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