Bush management chief tapped to head IRS

President Bush will nominate Office of Management and Budget official Mark Everson to head the Internal Revenue Service, the White House announced Monday.

Everson, deputy director for management at OMB, would replace Charles Rossotti, whose five-year term as IRS commissioner ended in November. Everson has headed up the Bush administration's effort to improve management of the federal bureaucracy, including an attempt to force hundreds of thousands of federal workers to compete with private contractors for their jobs.

Everson would take over the $10 billion-a-year, 100,000-person agency, one of the largest in the government, as the IRS tries to revamp its decades-old computer systems, improve its customer service and get a handle on tax cheats. IRS officials are also considering how to respond to the Bush administration's mandate to consider using private contractors to do some of the work currently performed by federal workers.

Rossotti resigned in November after deciding not to seek a second term despite his popularity at the agency and among groups that deal with the IRS. Deputy IRS Commissioner Robert Wenzel has served as acting IRS chief since Rossotti's departure.

Congress made the IRS commissioner job a five-year appointment in the 1998 IRS Reform and Restructuring Act, which aimed to make the agency more helpful and less abusive to taxpayers. The act also called for the commissioner to have experience managing large organizations. Most past IRS commissioners have been tax experts, not experienced leaders.

The IRS Oversight Board, an independent panel created by the 1998 law to oversee agency management, recommended two nominees for commissioner in April 2002. Oversight board members would not say who the nominees were, but they were both from outside of government and were not selected by the White House.

Robert Tobias, the employee representative on the oversight board, said Everson meets the criteria that the board set up for the commissioner, including experience managing a large organization and managing technology projects.

Prior to joining OMB in 2001 as controller, Everson was the vice president of finance for Sky Chefs, an Arlington, Texas-based company that caters meals to airlines. In the Reagan administration, Everson served as executive commissioner and deputy commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said in a statement that she is willing to work with Everson on issues affecting IRS employees, many of whom are represented by her union. But she said she would oppose contracting out IRS work. "Clearly, the work of the IRS needs to be in the hands of federal employees and that is a point I will emphasize to the new commissioner," Kelley said.

Paul Light, a scholar with New York University and the Brookings Institution, said Everson is a good choice for IRS commissioner. Light had been concerned that the Bush White House would pick a Republican loser in the 2002 elections for the job. "It could have been a lot worse," Light said.

Clay Johnson, the White House presidential personnel director, would replace Everson as deputy director for management at OMB. Dina Powell, Johnson's deputy, would take over as personnel director.

Johnson was George W. Bush's chief of staff when Bush was governor of Texas. Light said Johnson has two attributes that make him a good pick for deputy director for management, the top position devoted to executive branch management issues at the White House.

"Clay has the ear of the president and he's committed to management," Light said. "Usually people go from OMB to the White House rather than the opposite direction."

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