TSM will be initial posting for White House's new IT squad

With the General Services Administration bowing out of its
systems oversight role, the White House is forming a team of mid-level managers to
resuscitate troubled information technology projects.


Though Office of Management and Budget has yet to name a single member to this
Presidential Technology Team, or PTT, it has chosen its first assignment: the IRS' Tax
Systems Modernization.


Meanwhile, OMB and GSA are recasting an interagency review board of senior systems and
buying chiefs. Begun last year, the IT Acquisition Review Board has expanded and taken on
a new name: IT Resources Board [see box].


OMB officials also are working with the National Performance Review's Governmentwide IT
Services (GITS) Working Group to craft an executive order creating an Interagency
Leadership Council that will develop strategies and funding proposals for innovative
technology applications.


The PTT arose out of OMB's work over the past year with GSA to create a new IT
oversight scheme. With GSA ending its role as the government's systems procurement
watchdog, the White House bolsters major federal IT projects by leveraging the
government's collective technical and management expertise.


"One of the findings from the OMB-GSA group was that it is not fair to a expect a
single agency to handle complex systems efforts that are not part of their core business.
The PTT gives us a chance to leverage our best people," said Bruce McConnell, OMB's
chief of Information and Technology.


Unlike many of the existing interagency groups, the PTT will not be made up of senior
agency executives, but of mid-level IT professionals and systems managers from around
government.


OMB officials said agencies need more hands-on help with building systems and
integrating technologies, not critiques from senior officials. GSA already has trained
hundreds of agency IRM officials in acquiring major systems through its Trail Boss
program.


"We're looking for people at the GS-13, -14 and -15 levels who will work alongside
an agency's own staff doing actual jobs such managing software development
contracts," McConnell said. "This is a great opportunity for people to gain
experience in new technologies."


OMB issued a PTT recruiting notice last month, and nominations are due to OMB's Office
of Information and Regulatory Affairs by Feb. 16. Team members would be on reimbursable
detail from their home agencies for six- to 18-month tours.


IRS will be the first agency to use the PTT while OMB and GSA officials identify future
assignments. To help with TSM, IRS has told OMB it needs people with experience in
contracts, systems engineering, program control, requirements analysis, and testing and
evaluation.


McConnell said the initial PTT will have up to 15 people. Team members will be
dispatched to whatever IRS site or office needs their services most.


"We will be matching skills with the needs of the agency," McConnell said.
"This is a pilot project, and we will be fine-tuning it as we learn more and move
forward."


As for the IT Resources Board, that panel will handle the same peer review functions as
the former ITARB did. ITRB members are senior IRM managers who identify crucial issues for
major federal projects and offer their recommendations [GCN, Sept. 4, 1995, Page
70].


OMB and GSA will select the review assignments, and the group will examine up to eight
cases a year.


The White House is relying on ITRB to replace some of the old acquisition reviews done
by GSA's IT Service.


"We're now working with agencies in a more collaborative way," said Francis
A. McDonough, GSA's deputy associate administrator for IT in the Office of Governmentwide
Policy, Planning and Evaluation. "OMB is taking a more active role and looking to the
experience of other agencies as a resource."


The other new group, the Interagency Leadership Council, remains in an embryonic stage.


Endorsed by the White House and Sen. William Cohen (R-Maine) in his IRM reform
legislation, this interagency group will advise agencies and coordinate work on
governmentwide projects such as electronic mail.


But ILC still does not have any members or a final charter.


"The ILC will be an outgrowth of GITS with a more permanent status," said Jim
Flyzik, telecommunications director the Treasury Department and GITS Working Group
chairman. "The ILC will likely be created by executive order and have the Cohen
legislation as a reference point for its authority. The timeframes for all of this will
depend upon the executive order."


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