CIO Reece will mobilize IRS modernization

CIO Reece will mobilize IRS modernization

BY THOMAS R. TEMIN

AND PREETI VASISHTHA
| GCN STAFF

NEW ORLEANS'If the IRS' modernization effort were a military operation, its new chief information officer, John C. Reece, would be kicking tail and taking names.

In a speech last week at the annual conference of the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils, Reece outlined a thorough reorganization of the modernization effort. His goals, he said, are to make the effort more accountable, predictable and timely. And he is bringing in a team of executives from industry to help him.

'I'm here to say that modernization not only can be done but will be done,' Reece said.

One of his promises is, he said, that the IRS will soon send to Congress monthly status reports about its business modernization program to ensure that lawmakers are kept up-to-date and that the tax agency gets the funding it needs.

Battle stations

The IRS during the next year wants to roll out the first replacement piece for its tape-based Master File System, improve customer service via phone and allow online registration for tax preparers. Those goals are in addition to 40 other information technology improvement projects.

In an interview, he said he could live with the lower-than-requested appropriation the agency faces for the coming fiscal year.

'You ask for what you need, but you have to be satisfied with what you get,' he said.

The agency had requested $450 million for fiscal 2002, but the president's budget proposal included $397 million. The House and Senate have yet to sign off on a final figure, but lawmakers have questioned the need for the additional $53 million [GCN, June 25, Page 15].

Reece said one of the first steps he took after joining the IRS in March was to define the roles of the agency and its Prime modernization contractor, Computer Sciences Corp.

The IRS also will more clearly define roles for its Business Systems Modernization Office and Information Technology Services group'both of which report to Reece.

The CIO plans to bring in new people to help carry out the modernization. Jim Rinaldi, an IT executive from Marriott Corp. of Bethesda, Md., will join Information Technology Services as its director July 9. Other outsiders, who Reece wouldn't name until their appointments, will also join the systems team soon, he said.

To ensure a smoother rollout of new applications to the IRS' four business units, Reece said he plans to appoint what he called a 'transition-to-support' executive.

Before any new technology is deployed, Reece said, the Business Systems Modernization Office will vet it thoroughly to make sure the technology satisfies the business needs of users and complies with contract requirements. The Information Technology Service also will review projects to ensure they are technically sound.

Reece said he will assign an executive to coordinate these reviews.

'Every project will have a fully defined contract. That wasn't the case before. Now it's the rule,' Reece said.

Call in the cavalry

IRS veterans are also part of Reece's plan. In the Business Systems Modernization Office, James A. Williams, deputy associate commissioner for program management, will directly supervise CSC and its subcontractors. And Bob Albicker will continue to oversee technology development as deputy associate commissioner of systems integration.

Reece said that for the time being he will retain the role of director of the modernization office, a job vacated last month by Bert Concklin. Eventually, he added, he hopes to appoint an IRS career employee to the post.

Reece wouldn't comment on the performance of his predecessors, saying he preferred to concentrate on the future. He acknowledged that one agency contractor, Mitre Corp. of Bedford, Mass., last year issued a report highly critical of how CSC and the agency have managed Prime.

But, he said, he isn't relying on old reports for guidance: 'I've been in this business 42 years. I can smell that kind of thing.'

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