IRS restructuring team praises its MVP

If the National Commission on Restructuring the IRS were a baseball team, Charles
Lacijan would be the utility player.


Commission members and others on the staff described Lacijan as the unsung hero of the
project, which wrapped up last month with the release of a report recommending
wide-ranging change throughout IRS.


Both Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Sen. Bob Kerrey (D-Neb.), co-chairmen of the
commission, praised Lacijan's work as senior policy adviser. He oversaw technology issues,
and Portman and Kerrey said his contribution to the commission's work was essential.


The highest praise came from Jeff Trinca, the commission's chief of staff.


"Originally, what I wanted was a techhead. What I got was a guy who not only knows
technology but also has an MBA and really understood how technology needs to blend in with
your business," Trinca said. "He just came ready-made, and I don't know what we
would have done without him."


Lacijan, on detail from the Illinois Institute of Technology, said the commission's 17
members purposely did not include any specific recommendations in their final report about
IRS' Tax Systems Modernization program.


"We wanted to be forward-looking in our approach. We did not want to focus on the
past, even though it was very important to understand the past history," he said.
"What we really wanted was an honest assessment of what it would take from this point
forward to modernize."


Congressional leaders and commission members have expressed guarded satisfaction with
IRS' latest TSM blueprint. IRS said it will release cost and delivery estimates later this
summer.


As part of its review, Lacijan said, the IRS commission examined how companies had led
similar modernization efforts. "We came out with the belief that the most important
thing in modernization is management. Then you can discuss how technology can help reach
the organization's goals," he said.


Lacijan said the one-year, $1 million study of IRS was needed because "too often
we get wrapped up in the moment. It was very necessary for someone to take a step back,
look at the IRS and the broader environment in which it functions."


Surveys of former and current IRS employees showed, Lacijan said, that "everyone
agreed IRS needs more technology tools."


But, he added, "We did not ask them who they think should be blamed for the lack
of those tools. Assigning blame was not the approach we were going to take."


Lacijan said that after 12 daylong hearings, interviews with 500 witnesses and
thousands of hours of work by the commission's staff, agency employees want to see the
commission's recommendations implemented.


"This whole thing was carried out from day one in a bipartisan way. It is in
everyone's best interest to get the legislation passed and implement it," he said.


Portman and Kerrey have said they will introduce a bill to enact the commission's
recommendations. Administration officials said they will oppose the creation of an
independent board with the authority to hire and fire the commissioner. As a
countermeasure, President Clinton established an IRS Management Board composed of
Treasury, IRS and government and civilian representatives.


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