New IRS chief suggests changes to systems plan

But the monikers--given to IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti, chief information officer
Arthur Gross and Bob Barr, assistant commissioner for electronic tax administration--may
not entirely reflect reality.


A few short months after a speaker praised the three during a meeting on electronic
filing, there are signs that philosophical and strategic differences may be arising,
especially between Rossotti and Gross, over the multibillion dollar modernization project.


Any rift could jeopardize the much-heralded plan IRS unveiled with fanfare less than a
year ago.


IRS has delayed indefinitely the release of the request for proposals for a prime
modernization contractor. Rossotti, in a meeting last month with the would-be vendors,
told them he postponed the RFP's release because he wanted to take a closer look at the
draft.


IRS released the draft RFP in October [GCN, Oct. 13, 1997, Page 1]. The agency
had planned to release the final RFP on Jan. 15. Now, the vendor teams said they do not
expect the solicitation before the middle of next month.


Sources within the two vendor teams vying for the prime modernization contract--one led
by Computer Sciences Corp., the other by Lockheed Martin Corp.--said their respective
teams might collapse if progress stalls.


Insiders at IRS and some vendor sources said disagreements among senior agency
officials raise questions about whether Gross' job is in jeopardy. Gross has said he would
continue to work closely with Rossotti and acknowledged that the new commissioner must
review all IRS programs.


"My judgement is that coverage of this kind of an issue at this point is premature
because it is only going to raise speculation about a very important procurement,"
Gross said. "I don't think that is going to serve the government or industry
well."


What is driving speculation is Rossotti's vision of how the modernization plan should
be carried out, and how that vision might or might not differ from the one Gross--with
backing from Treasury Department officials--has pushed for the past two years.


Sources said Rossotti appears to be shying away from the mainframe-centric blueprint
that Gross and his team created.


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