August 15, 2016
I am writing to update you on NTEU’s views on the Future State and provide context on where we stand on this change management initiative. I would also like to hear your feedback on Future State—what you think and what you want to know about how this impacts you and your work. Early this year, the IRS approached NTEU about a series of initiatives it was undertaking to deal with budget cuts and the significant loss of staffing it suffered as a result of the Resource Roadmap Initiative (RRI). Shortly afterwards, Commissioner John Koskinen announced the Future State project and ConOps and RRI were merged into that initiative. In our early discussions, NTEU elected to participate with subject matter experts on a number of the RRI projects, including:
- the Insolvency Future State Team
- Outreach and Communications Bridge Project
- Administrative Support Team
- Operations Support Shared Delivery/HCO Future State and
- the SBSE Exam Future State.
We then progressed to having a small group of NTEU chapter presidents and staff on a team that receives periodic updates on various aspects of Future State. It should be noted that many of NTEU’s requests for information in these briefings, such as detailed information on what was requested of the Future State contractor and reports the contractor has developed, data to support the proposed changes, project cost savings and plans for saved resources, have not yet been met so we don’t have all the information we need to evaluate this properly. Over the course of the year, I have had numerous discussions with Commissioner Koskinen on Future State. In those discussions, I repeatedly told the Commissioner that NTEU does not oppose making the IRS more efficient for taxpayers and recognizes IRS must take steps to deal with the devastating budget cuts, but had NTEU been consulted at the earliest stages of the project, it is possible that our view of the priorities and direction of the Future State priorities would be different. I also told the Commissioner that it was our definitive view that any cost savings realized from the various projects should be invested in rebuilding the IRS front-line workforce. As a result of those meetings, I submitted to the Commissioner NTEU’s Guiding Principles. These are the foundation of what we require to collaborate with the IRS on this project. They include such elements as redirecting resources to the front line, no RIFs or downgrades, expanding the IT workforce, greater flexibilities for employees like telework, information sharing and meaningful involvement. We have always stated that the IRS must have front-line employee involvement for Future State initiatives to be successful. I also met with IRS National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson on the Future State. NTEU agrees with the Taxpayer Advocate’s view that taxpayers need to retain person-to-person contact with IRS employees. At my request, the Commissioner conducted a briefing with NTEU Chapter Presidents from around the country. They submitted their questions and comments during the teleconference, as well as afterwards, and those have been provided to the IRS for response. As the project has progressed, NTEU’s concerns about the Future State concept and whether IRS is serious about meaningful input from NTEU and front-line employees have grown. National Executive Vice President Jim Bailey and I, along with a small group of NTEU chapter presidents, will be meeting with IRS senior executives to discuss next steps. It is my view that wherever and whenever possible, NTEU should be involved in the teams working on the Future State. This is the only way we can be assured of protecting our members, helping our members to provide input to make the project better and mitigating negative impact. Whether we reach an agreement or not, NTEU still retains its full bargaining rights under regulations and law. We have asked the IRS to work with us to find a way forward that would incorporate NTEU’s Guiding Principles into the Future State. I believe this is the only way to be sure that Future State will result in improvements to your workplace and work lives. I recognize the difficulties the harsh budget cuts have caused, but I also recognize the IRS’ dedicated and experienced employees are essential to the success of any effort the agency embarks on. If bettering the work lives of employees is not a primary goal of the Future State then I believe it will not succeed. Again, I invite your comments and questions on Future State. Email your thoughts using the button below. I will keep you informed on our progress in the weeks ahead.