RealTime IT News

CSC Delays Cost Company, IRS

By Ron Miller

IRS Commissioner Mark Everson told Congress Thursday that repeated deliverable delays from prime contractor Computer Science Corp. (CSC) has prompted him to remove CSC from two pieces of the agency's massive Business Systems Modernization (BSM) program. The program, which aims to modernize all IRS business practices, has been plagued with cost overruns and project delays.

Everson said that the IRS would continue to work with CSC on other parts of the project and make a concerted effort to overcome past problems, including developing a plan to resolve past issues.

As a result of past problems, however, Everson told the subcommittee he would open up two pieces of the contract to competition from other vendors.

"While [CSC] has indicated their willingness to bear the financial burden for this further delay, we feel that the IRS needs to take some stronger steps. Specifically, we will expand the competition for the new enforcement projects that we plan to start later this year and next year. In addition; we will also expand the competition for the next phase of IFS," testified Everson.

As a result of several studies ordered by Everson last year to address problems with the project, CSC and the IRS have also undertaken a plan to resolve their issues. Among the findings are increased involvement of top level management for both parties and tighter control of the project management process.

"I have significantly enhanced the top-level leadership of the modernization effort. I personally meet with the IRS top team every other week to discuss the status of critical project goals and other program improvement initiatives," Everson told the House Oversight Subcommittee.

Both the IRS and CSC have taken some blame for project problems, which both say is among the most complex computer projects ever undertaken anywhere.

"The scope of the projects was far too large. The IRS management team and [CSC] had taken on too much and been stretched too thin. We did not have the capacity to properly manage such a large portfolio. The result is that we have been unable to devote the resources, energy and attention to meeting our primary goals," Everson said.

Paul Cofoni, CSC's federal sector president and corporate vice president, added, "BSM is one of the largest civilian technology renovation programs ever to be undertaken. The modernization effort involves massive, long-term change for all IRS organizations and for taxpayers."

Ray Bjorklund, senior vice president and chief knowledge officer at MacLean, Va., marketing intelligence firm FSI, told internetnews.com, "Usually when something like this of major impact and importance, it's usually a two-way street and both parties have some culpability. The government's not perfect and neither is contractor."

House Oversight Staff Director Kirk Walder said he thinks the project is finally on the right track.

"I think the feeling is that they made some bad mistakes, but they have put a plan in place to correct the mistakes and complete the modernization project," Walder said Friday. "I think they have a good plan and we'll measure the results."

Bjorklund agrees with Walder, saying "[A project this complex] takes very detailed management attention with executive level buy in and participation."

In the end, CSC hopes they can move forward and strengthen their partnership with the IRS.

"The IRS and CSC must now leverage our past experiences with modernization and continue the commitment to work together in partnership and trust -- and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of partnership and trust -- to improve overall delivery performance and to eliminate on-time and on-budget issues," Cofoni said.