$341M telecom task order key to IRS modernization

customer experience (garagestock/ 

The IRS plans to leverage a governmentwide telecommunications contract to support IT modernization plans, according to the agency's acting CIO.

IRS awarded Verizon a task order on Sept. 26 under the General Services Administration's Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract with a ceiling value of $341 million over 13 years.

It will support the tax agency's growing list of customer-facing services, Nancy Sieger, acting IRS CIO, said on the sidelines of FCW's IT Modernization Summit on Oct 10.

The contract's documentation from the Federal Procurement Data System said it is for "toll-free services," but the description doesn't cover the breadth of the services it will serve.

EIS, said Sieger, is for the backbone for the IRS' communications and internet and both are crucial to the agency's push to further hone an increasingly sharp set of customer-facing capabilities that will travel over the infrastructure.

The telecommunications backbone "supports our contact centers, our website and our internal capabilities. It's a major component of our modernization plan," she told FCW during the summit.

The backbone also supports the customer contact center that handles about 50 million customer calls annually. That volume, she said, also tends to cluster during tax season, January through April, she said during her presentation at the event.

The IRS rolled out a modernization plan in April 2019 that would create, tweak or retire at least 20 systems, programs and applications at the agency. The plan also detailed a six-year effort to update core tax administration systems, IRS operations and cybersecurity, a key goal laid out by Commissioner Charles Rettig in his confirmation hearing last year.

More recently, the Taxpayer First Act, signed into law in July requiring the agency to leverage technology to modernize its operations, has also worked into its plans.

Even before those two efforts, the 2017 tax reform law got the IRS moving smartly toward modernization, according to Sieger. This year, the agency is seeing some of the rewards of those efforts.

Sieger, who stepped in as acting agency CIO in May 2019, said the modernization effort has already had an impact on taxpayers. The last tax season, she said, was the busiest the agency has seen. The IRS accommodated heavy electronic filing -- almost two million filings during the first hour of the first day of tax season, she said. On the last day, April 15, the agency processed 15.3 million returns, she said.

The agency's backbone system that carried all those electronic transactions is "current," she said, but a lot of the software behind the processing is still legacy.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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