IRS seeks top talent

Internal Revenue Service officials have begun a search for two associate chief information officers and five outside senior executives with experience managing large modernization programs.

W. Todd Grams, the agency's CIO, said an executive search company has been hired to find experienced managers to help the agency stabilize its complex systems modernization program. News of the search was disclosed in an audit report that the Treasury Department's Inspector General for Tax Administration released this week.

The audit, conducted between January and March, held few surprises for those who have been following events that Grams referred to as "our progress and struggles."

Grams disclosed that he has sought additional outside help from Carnegie Mellon University's Software Engineering Institute to periodically review the IRS' progress on creating a modernized taxpayer account database. The database, whose initial release has been delayed four times, is universally acknowledged as a must-not-fail project. The new deadline for releasing the first version is September.

Grams also said Mitre Corp., which operates three federally funded systems engineering research and development centers, will regularly review the overall systems modernization effort and report directly to him.

The audit shows IRS officials have completed 44 of 48 management tasks they set for themselves six months ago to get the modernization program back on track after serious program delays and cost overruns. But the report also shows that each of the fundamental management problems identified in previous audits and program reviews still exist. Agency officials, for example, continue to agree to overly ambitious and impractical deadline periods for delivering projects.

"It is critical that we start setting realistic delivery schedules, and it is critical that we follow our methodologies religiously," Grams wrote in his response to the Treasury audit.

The audit found that the IRS must further improve its procedures for managing the program's complexity and the lead contractor's performance. The report was "fair and balanced," Grams said, but it contained disappointing news that the IRS' modernization program has still not turned the corner.

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