Presidential Technology Team sets sights on problem programs

The Office of Management and Budget wants the government's "best and brightest" information technology experts to become part of a roving consulting team that will help agencies rescue troubled projects and prevent the most difficult IT programs from developing problems in the first place.

The idea for the new Presidential Technology Team (PTT) grew out of a finding by OMB and the General Services Administration that developing large, complex systems "will often outstrip the resources available to a single agency," according to an OMB memo calling for volunteers for the team. "Our analysis found that agencies need to leverage the government's best experience and talent across agency lines," the memo said.

Bruce McConnell, chief of information policy with OMB, said agencies already get plenty of advice from interagency oversight groups.

"Advice is cheap, but this is actual help," he said. "We think this will supplement the capabilities of agencies in a targeted way."

"It's an innovative idea that's trying to get some talent focused on perhaps problem areas or problem systems at a time when government is downsizing and finding it difficult to hire," said David McClure, assistant director with the General Accounting Office's IRM Policies and Issues Group.

Tax Systems Modernization (TSM), the much-scrutinized and criticized Internal Revenue Service program to upgrade its systems for tax collection, taxpayer services and investigations, is the first project to which the PTT will be assigned (see related story, page 20).

McConnell said future programs will be selected based on agency requests and on the recommendations of budget examiners and such interagency oversight groups as the Information Technology Resources Board and the Interagency Leadership Council.

Volunteers for the new PTT will be assigned to work on specific agency systems development projects for six to 18 months.

OMB wants experts in contracts, systems engineering, program control, requirements analysis, and testing and evaluation.

"We want the best—the people who are definitely known as the people who you go to if you have a tough project," McConnell said. The experts will be matched to projects according to their skills.

IRS deputy commissioner Michael Dolan said the IRS has a "shopping list" of areas where the agency needs expertise. PTT members might be assigned to work on the TSM system architecture, systems engineering, software development procedures, security or the IRS' electronic commerce capabilities. "We are interested in seeing the kind of folks who respond to help," he said.

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