The new face of modernization at IRS

Richard Spires works to get overhaul of tax systems back on track.

Going toe-to-toe with the big boys at the negotiating table is a familiar experience for Richard Spires. What's different for the two-decade veteran of the private sector is that now he represents the government side in the money talks.

The new associate chief information officer for the Internal Revenue Service's troubled Business Systems Modernization (BSM) effort has an appreciation for the pressures that contractors face. And that allows him to craft "deals that are both good for us and are also palatable to them," Spires recently said, sitting in his office at IRS headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Spires replaced Fred Forman Sept. 17 as leader of the $10 billion effort to modernize the IRS' tax-processing technology, and he sees bright spots showing up in the performance of the six-company Prime Alliance of BSM contractors led by Computer Sciences Corp.

But issues remain, Spires said, and he has been addressing those topics of concern since he came on board. For example, he wasted no time initiating a review of the program support provided by the Prime Alliance.

"We have an opportunity to really drive ourselves," said Jim Sheaffer, CSC's vice president and Prime Alliance general manager. "I think Richard wants to continue to find out how we can effectively work together. I don't see it as a fundamental change in the way we do business together."

Spires has also been busy creating a new change requirements office and reworking the BSM Challenge Plan, a 46-point program IRS officials and contractors agreed to earlier this year to get the BSM effort moving again.

A running start like this doesn't happen without preparation, however. As part of an unusual transition process, Spires actually joined the IRS in April, as one of four associate chief information officers. W. Todd Grams, the agency's CIO, created a position expressly for Spires that was dissolved after the changeover in BSM leadership.

"I had five months in which to really learn the program, work closely with the team," Spires said. "It's almost like I was [Forman's] deputy for five months, and then we switched, and now he's staying on to help me continue to transition, but now I'm formally running the program." Forman is scheduled to leave the IRS by mid-November, about six months before his nonrenewable four-year contract runs out.

"I'm really glad we did it this way," Spires said.

Landing a government job was no accident for him. After spending 16 years at SRA International and another three as president and chief operating officer of Mantas, a vendor of software that helps detect money laundering, Spires decided to start looking into career options in the public sector.

"I was looking at opportunities," he said. "I actually decided to apply not, as it turns out, for the job I'm in, but for a different job in IRS."

Working for the government is different, Spires said. The level of oversight "is certainly more than you would see in the private sector." And although Spires finds IRS leaders open to change, the number of overseers — including officials at the Treasury Department, the Office of Management and Budget, the Government Accountability Office and Congress does make change a slower process, he said.

Nevertheless, his migration from the for-profit world to the government is part of a larger push on the part of IRS officials to recruit private-sector executives to fill open and newly created slots in the Modernization and Information Technology Services division. Agency officials have spoken of relying on IRS civil servants who are experts in tax administration and IRS outsiders who have strong IT project experience.

"There are excellent people here at the IRS," Spires said. "I really enjoy this team and am proud to be a part of this team. But there are particular areas where we want to bring in private-sector skills or skills that don't exist in people we have here."

Agency watchers characterize the infusion of outside talent into the IRS as a necessary endeavor. "I think they need qualified new blood," said one expert, who requested anonymity. "It would be true of any organization where people work in the same place for a long time. They lose sometimes the ability to see things outside of the context of their operations."

The effort is having the desired effect, Spires said. "I think that [it] has shifted the culture a bit. I see a real openness to bringing in other executives who can add value."

However, IRS employees have voiced resentment in the past to outsiders coming in, the observer added, saying, "There's no doubt that there was some pushback from the long-standing folks, some resentment and some 'I'll show them — I'm not going to cooperate.' "

Overcoming that attitude requires "salesmanship, good sensitivity, good diplomacy skills," the observer said.

IRS officials' next move will be to hire an executive to fill the new position of associate CIO for enterprise services, a post Spires said he worked closely with Grams to define. The new organization will ensure that Modernization and IT Services officials adhere to life cycle planning principles, he said.

"The real concept is that this new organization — Enterprise Services — is going to be taking some of the functions that exist today in BSM and [Information Technology Services] and combine them so we have an end-to-end process all the way from developing applications to fielding them," he said.

The Richard Spires file

Current position: Associate chief information officer for Business Systems Modernization at the Internal Revenue Service.

Age: 43.

Birthplace: Summit, N.J.

Education: Spires has two bachelor's degrees, in electrical engineering and mathematical sciences, from the University of Cincinnati. He also has a master's degree in electrical engineering from George Washington University.

Hobbies: Golf, running, weight training and travel.

Most recently read book: "The Bounty: The True Story of the Mutiny on the Bounty" by Caroline Alexander.

Typical weekend: Spending time with his wife and three children — "in particular, spending time at my children's sporting events." Spires has a son, 13, and two daughters, 8 and 11.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.