He knows what counts for Census, IRS

He knows what counts for Census, IRS

Jerry B. Agee

He knows what counts for Census, IRS



After 22 years in the Navy, Jerry B. Agee knows what the government requires from a systems integrator.

Agee joined TRW Inc. in 1987 and managed its Integration Support Contract with the IRS until this year, when he became vice president and general manager of the integrator's federal enterprise solutions group in Reston, Va. He helped produce the IRS modernization blueprint now in effect and helped structure the $5 billion Prime contract won last year by Computer Sciences Corp.

A Roanoke, Va., native, Agee received a bachelor's degree in international affairs and economics from Florida State University. He attended the Defense Intelligence College and completed postgraduate work at the universities of Maryland and North Florida.

GCN chief technology editor Susan M. Menke interviewed Agee at his Reston office.


GCN:'How broad a range of integration does TRW Inc. cover for the government?

AGEE: It's basically the waterfront. This business unit covers the broad spectrum of what contractors do, from building mission-critical software for NASA's Earth Observing System Data and Operations System down to engineering services.

TRW won the IRS Integration Support Contract in 1992. At that point, the IRS wanted to be its own systems integrator. We were hired for systems engineering and advice. That turned out not to be a good model, mainly because we could only offer advice, we couldn't do the things we felt were necessary.

The requirements changed over the years. The IRS had a problem getting money from Congress for systems modernization around 1995 and 1996. Our role shifted, and, during the time Arthur Gross was the chief information officer, we took a much more active role. It was a period when the IRS needed to show Congress and its staff that it had a plan. In 1996, TRW people worked with a small staff at the IRS, and in about six months put together what is now called the modernization blueprint.

The IRS took the blueprint to the Treasury Department and the Office of Management and Budget and the General Accounting Office and financial institutions. It was able to convince Congress it had a solid technical strategy. The one thing still missing was the changes that needed to take place on the business side. When IRS commissioner Charles O. Rossotti got there, he brought that impetus, which again shifted the way things would be done.

TRW had concluded by that point that the model could be changed to a better model, and we pushed hard to define the Prime concept and convince the IRS it was the way to go. In the process, we got ourselves into a position where we not only were pushing the concept but also were driving the request for proposals and the requirements. So it reached a point where we could not bid without a conflict of interest. At that point, at the IRS' request, we decided to no-bid and back out.

We believed then, and we believe today, that the Prime concept really is the right way to do it, combined with the blueprint and with Rossotti's changes in the fundamental way the IRS is organized into more of a customer service organization.



GCN:'Talk about your Treasury Communications System work.

AGEE: We design, install, operate and maintain TCS, which is the largest telecommunications network in the federal government outside the Defense Department. It moves a lot of internal information for Treasury, the IRS, the Customs Bureau and the Secret Service.

Because it's being done by an integrator, a nontelecommunications company, we can work with many telecom companies. We're not tied into any one telco. We're using two right now'Qwest Communications International Inc. of Denver and Sprint Corp.'and others under them. We're able to get the best prices, certainly competitive with anything else in the marketplace, like FTS 2000 or FTS 2001.

We can use many different contractors and swap out technology. With Treasury's cooperation, we can come up with expanded services in a timely fashion and drop the price. The services are tied to service-level agreements. It's an interesting way of doing business.



GCN:'You're turning an old X.25 network into asynchronous transfer mode?

AGEE: Correct. Upgrading Treasury's old Consolidated Data Network is a little like changing the systems at the IRS: You've got to do it in a manner that does not disrupt or hinder the flow of data. As we do that, we're trying to change equipment for year 2000, we're trying to add ATM backbone capacity and we're changing the way we bundle our services.

The prices are definitely coming down. As we bundle network needs, it gives us a chance to reduce the cost of dedicated lines. It's costing around $100 million a year for labor, hardware, leased lines and facilities.



GCN:'Are you considering voice over IP for TCS users?

AGEE: Yes, we're looking at voice over data, and that is where networks will go. Right now, it's a little premature because we're only providing data service. But that is where you begin to aggregate the savings for agencies in putting voice and videoconferencing on top of existing bandwidth.'

That market is evolving. Voice over data is not something we're going to get on the leading edge of. We want to feel comfortable about it before we do it.



GCN:'How is your work going on preparing for the 2000 Census?

AGEE: It's absolutely fascinating. The Census Bureau has been taking censuses since 1790 with government employees or hired enumerators, temps. For the first time it will use contractors to operate large parts of the census. The government will continue to hire the enumerators to fill in the forms or mail them out to hundreds of millions of people.

Once the forms are filled out and come back in, the contractors take over. Lockheed Martin Corp. was awarded the Data Capture Services Contract to build the imaging system that will scan the forms and do optical character recognition to extract the data and ship it to Census.

The second piece, outsourced to Electronic Data Systems Corp., is the call center where people with questions can call in.

What TRW won under DCSC is the data capture center part. We were tasked last year to design, build, outfit and test the center and train the workers. We have to physically build nearly 1 million square feet of space in less than a year. We have 285,000 square feet in Baltimore right now, three football fields long under a single roof, plus all the power to support Lockheed Martin's equipment, which we have received and tested.

Another center is in Pomona, Calif., and a third is in Phoenix. The next step is for us to hire 6,000 or 8,000 people to operate the three centers. It's a very compressed time schedule. All the returns'200 million forms'have to be brought in, processed and their data sent to Census within a 90- or 120-day period. We have to reprocess them if something is wrong, or have the enumerators go back out and ask questions and send them back in.

When that short processing period is over, we go back and gut everything and tear it down. It's the largest mobilization of U.S. citizens since World War II, when you count the enumerators and all the workers we've got. It's several hundred thousand people, and it will all be over by the end of next year.

The dollar value is about $220 million. It's going to be a 24-hour, seven-day-a-week operation. And, at any time in the midst of all that, there will be maybe 18 tractor trailers loading and unloading at each center's docks day after day. It's the most intriguing thing we've attempted recently.



GCN:'What's your involvement in the General Services Administration's Seat Management Program contracts?

AGEE: We're a subcontractor to EER Systems Inc. of Seabrook, Md., and we're trying to decide whether to bid on another seat management program. We don't have any work under the GSA contract yet.

How it will play out is unknown at this point.

Agencies spend a lot of cash every year buying, managing and supporting their desktop systems and LANs. If seat management is used properly, it will give agencies a more holistic view of their desktop infrastructures and a way to aggregate their services in a manner that cuts costs. Some agencies run five or 10 help desks.



GCN:'What about year 2000?

AGEE: I think overall it will go fine. There will be blips and burps in certain places. We're doing a lot of year 2000 test work for the IRS, running a true national test bed, and things are moving along very well. It's not going to be a national catastrophe.

WHAT'S MORE

  • Age: 55
  • Family: Wife, Karen; two adult
    children
  • Last books read: Techniques of Financial Analysis by Erich A. Helfert and Ambrose Bierce's Civil War by Ambrose Bierce and William McCann
  • Worst job: Assistant butcher in a meat market
  • Best job: Current one
  • Dream job: Travel writer

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