CSC: Tax database should continue

Despite setbacks, those monitoring a taxpayer database project believe it can still work.

Computer Sciences Corp., the lead vendor under the Prime contract for the Internal Revenue Service's Customer Account Data Engine(CADE), said it is confident the project will be ready for the 2004 filing season. A member of the IRS Oversight Board said stopping the program is "absolutely not an option."

"The technology that the IRS is using has got to be modernized," said the Larry Levitan, chair of the business transformation committee of the oversight board, a congressionally-mandated group of public- and private-sector experts.

The data engine forms the heart of the tax agency's modernization effort under a prime contract, led by CSC. But IRS officials now want to take another look.

Last week, the agency said the data engine's launch will be pushed back to the 2004 filing season, marking the project's second delay — it originally was supposed to debut in December 2001, and then was rescheduled for August this year. Earlier this year, IRS Commissioner Mark Everson said he would use the August milestone to determine whether the prime contract should go forward or if more changes should be made to it.

Agency officials say the program will continue, but the IRS has hired the Carnegie Mellon University Software Engineering Institute to review the project and prepare a report by the end of October. The review will evaluate the progress of the project and determine whether any corrections to the schedule are needed, determine what goals should be set, examine the performance of the Prime team and assess the agency's management of the almost five-year-old contract. The tax agency has also asked the IRS Oversight Board to assess the future of the project.

"The fact that this [delay] came at this point is not a surprise, but it is a disappointment," Levitan said.

CSC said it welcomes the Carnegie Mellon group's evaluation.

The federal government has budgeted $33 million in the current fiscal year for the tax data system, and in fiscal 2004, they plan to spend $84 million of the $458 million requested for the entire modernization program.

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