Plenty of blame to go around for TSM

If one needs any further proof that times have changed in government, look no further than the plan being considered by the House Appropriations Committee to curb the Tax Systems Modernization program.

After years of giving the IRS nearly all the money it wanted, Congress is deciding it wants more guarantees up front that the agency will spend the public's money wisely.

It can be argued that the IRS is a popular target for politicians - especially in an election year. But that view does not account for the fact that, regardless of party, legislators agree that TSM is necessary for the IRS to continue to perform vital tax collection work.

It may also be argued that Congress should have exercised its oversight responsibilities a long time ago, before TSM ran so badly off track. Perhaps, but agencies and the Hill all know more about how to manage IT programs - and how not to manage them - than they did only a few years ago.

Unlike other agencies - the FAA comes to mind - the IRS seems never to have recognized that taxpayers and their elected representatives would no longer wait forever for it to deliver. Now, barring a miraculous change of heart, more than 2,000 rank-and-file IRS employees working on TSM will pay for this with their jobs.

There may be plenty of blame to go around for this debacle, but, as is often the case, the people who end up paying are not those primarily at fault.

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