IRS hires IT consultant—is he the next CIO?

“This is a
complicated position where you have to keep a lot of balls in the air.”





As Congress was putting the final touches on a bill to reform the IRS, which lawmakers
passed July 6, the agency was tapping a consultant to help it with systems modernization.


Just days before the lawmakers cast their votes, the IRS named Paul J. Cosgrave as a
consultant to the commissioner for modernizing information and telecommunication systems,
a job widely seen as a stepping stone to the service’s vacant chief information
officer post.


Even the phone message at Cosgrave’s New York office directed callers to the IRS
CIO office, “as I’m more likely to be at that number.”


Cosgrave could be named to the job after President Clinton signs the IRS reform bill,
IRS and industry sources said. IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti informed congressional
leaders of Cosgrave’s appointment two weeks ago.


The IRS reform bill, which is awaiting the president’s signature, calls for the
most extensive overhaul of the tax service in nearly half a century.


Among other things, the bill would give the IRS commissioner new personnel oversight
authority, including the ability to hire top executives at salaries of up to $175,400.


If ultimately chosen as the IRS’ next CIO, Cosgrave would succeed Arthur A. Gross,
who left the service in April to work with a nonprofit organization.


As a consultant, Cosgrave will advise the service on the design, development,
implementation and operation of IRS systems, Rossotti told Congress. Cosgrave “brings
to the IRS the experience and vision we need to continue the process we have begun of
modernizing our information technology systems,” Rossotti said in a memorandum to
lawmakers.


Cosgrave this year began his own consulting business, Strategies4Success, in New York.


In February, he left his job as president and chief executive officer of Claremont
Technology Group Inc., a systems integration company in Beaverton, Ore. He had held the
Claremont post since 1994.


Cosgrave is also a member of the board of the Information Technology Association of
America in Arlington, Va.


“He’s incredibly smart,” ITAA president Harris N. Miller said.
“This is a complicated position where you have to keep a lot of balls in the
air.”


Cosgrave joins the IRS at a turbulent time. The reform law follows a year of intense
criticism from lawmakers and taxpayers who have decried aggressive tax collection tactics
by revenue agents.


The complaints, as well as long delays in the service’s systems modernization,
resulted in the formation of a bipartisan commission led by Sen. Robert J. Kerry (D-Neb.)
and Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio). The commission’s recommendations led to the IRS
overhaul bill.


Miller noted that Rossotti and Cosgrave are two men with more information technology
and business experience than knowledge of the tax code. He speculated on what that might
mean for the IRS.


“If they can’t fix it, maybe it’s so broken that nobody can fix
it,” Miller said. 

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