IRS exec says planning key to modernization effort

A tax executive at the Internal Revenue Service today said the agency has put a tight grip on the purse strings for the multibillion-dollar project to modernize the agency's computer systems in order to make certain that preliminary planning for the modernization is solid before money is spent.

Al Mazei, assistant commissioner of the IRS' Program Management and Architecture Office, said money set aside for the Prime contract will not be spent until he, other top IRS executives, the Office of Management and Budget, the General Accounting Office, the Treasury Department and Congress are confident that everyone has a common strategy to develop and deploy the new systems.

Mazei, who spoke at the National Press Building, said he and his staff are still working out the kinks in the planning process, which sometimes involves sending IRS staff members back to the drawing board to find solutions to unanswered questions.

"We will not be spending any money any time soon,'' Mazei said. "I am [going to spend] this money like it is my own."

Last year the IRS selected a team headed by Computer Sciences Corp. to work in a multiple-year partnership with the agency on its Prime Systems Integration Services Contract, called Prime.

For a decade, the IRS has tried and failed to modernize its gigantic computer systems, some of which date back to President Kennedy's administration. In the last failed attempt to upgrade its systems, the IRS spent about $3.3 billion.

"The IRS has gone through many modernization projects,'' Mazei said. "In order for us to do it properly, CSC deserves the best from us, so we picked out talent from the agency to join the team. This is our last chance to do it right."

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