IRS expands backup systems

The Internal Revenue Service expanded backup systems at its three tax return processing centers in the wake of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, using an additional $13 million provided by Congress, a top IRS official said March 4.

John Reece, deputy commissioner for modernization and chief information officer at the IRS, told Federal Computer Week that the backup expansion was one of several measures taken to protect the agency after the attacks.

The disaster recovery systems were added using existing space at the centers rather than renting space at other locations, he said. Congress earmarked the money in a Defense authorization bill.

"We have to safeguard the system, otherwise we're in trouble as a country," Reece said in an interview in Orlando, Fla., where he later addressed the Government Information Technology Executive Council's 16th annual Information Processing Interagency Conference.

"We think we've taken every measure we can...[to have] a very tight network security to protect e-filing. We've put very comprehensive protection systems into all our service centers,...[and] mail operations at the IRS are under very tight control," Reece said.

After Sept. 11, he said officials realized that "if we lost any one of the three centers, we would be in some trouble." But now, the capacity at the three computing centers has been expanded "to the highest level in government."

"We think we've done everything that's possible to do," he said. "That's the lesson of [Sept. 11]. You have to be prepared to go out and reconstruct and continue operations."

Later, he told the conferees that the IRS' business systems modernization plan is on time and on target. He said it is "all about managing change."

"At the end of the day, it comes down to being fair and balanced," Reece said.

He added that the IRS hopes to exceed its goal of 45 million online tax returns this year and told the gathering at the conference that later this year, taxpayers will be able to track the status of their tax returns online.

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