Rossotti weighs in on Prime

Charles Rossotti commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service may change his agency's approach to its 15-year modernization effort so that the IRS would have more flexibility in dealing with vendors and choosing information systems.

In a Dec. 21 memo obtained by FCW Rossotti outlined his "observations" about the draft request for proposals for the IRS Prime contract. The IRS "must retain the option at defined points in time to reconfigure the overall business arrangement" with the winning vendor and its "major partners " he said. It would be "imprudent to assume that any arrangement constructed today" would be the best one years from now Rossotti said.

Departing From the Norm

In addition Rossotti said that as modernization progresses the IRS should have "practical competitive options" that would allow officials to select from at least two solutions for every new system it wants to build rather than have the prime vendor r ecommend a single technical approach.

These ideas depart from the modernization strategy developed over the past 20 months by Arthur Gross the chief information officer of the IRS who envisioned a 15-year contract under which the prime vendor would work closely with the IRS to develop technical specifications for new systems.

Release of the final solicitation expected Jan. 15 has been delayed and industry sources expressed concern that bidders' commitments to the multibillion-dollar project might wane if it does not move forward quickly. IRS Prime is to be the main vehicle through which the IRS will carry out its Modernization Blueprint for upgrading the agency's information systems.

"If they follow the letter of the memo then that's not the same job we're bidding right now " said Don Brown vice president with Computer Sciences Corp.'s Integrated Systems Division the leader of one of two teams of vendors bidding on the project. "I would clearly have to reconsider whether the new job was a job we wanted to bid."

''Everyone is always concerned when procurements stretch out '' said Ron Vucurevich president for information systems integration programs with Lockheed Martin. But Vucurevich said the discussions about the RFP are part of ''our normal business process.''

Rumor of a Rift

Sources familiar with the project said the memo which Rossotti shared with CSC and Lockheed Martin exposes a widely rumored rift between the new commissioner who was appointed to his job last fall and Gross. "What you have here is two very strong personalities " said one industry source who asked to remain anonymous.

Another industry source said Rossotti and Gross agree "about three-fourths of the way on the existing plan."

IRS spokeswoman Jodi Patterson said "[Gross] thinks it's completely appropriate" that Rossotti thoroughly review the modernization plan.

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