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At the IRS, like many large agencies, purchasing, technology, and the mission are all tied together. Today the IRS has a new Deputy Director of Purchasing, someone with extensive experience in the federal and private sectors. Guy Torres joined the Federal Drive with Tom Temin in workshop.
Tom Temin: Dude, good to have you.
Guy Torres: Great to be here. Thanks, Tom.
Tom Temin: And let’s start with the fact that you are the assistant purchasing manager. How do you divide the tasks between you and the purchasing manager?
Guy Torres: Excellent question, Tom. So in many cases, the purchasing manager is the senior purchasing executive who actually defines the strategic needs and the strategic vision of the organization. While I am actually the assistant trying to meet those expectations as well as manage the procurement needs of tactical contracting operations that we see on a day-to-day basis within the organization.
Tom Temin: And you arrived at the IRS a few weeks ago, a few months ago. And did you slip into something that was going on rather quietly and you could take your time to level up or was it just jumping into the flowing water?
Guy Torres: He was jumping in cold white water, in fact, Tom. It was three months drinking from the fire hose, several fire hoses to be honest with you. A lot of challenges, a lot of changes are happening at the IRS right now. So we try to bring the best procurement actions, the best procurement practices to this group to support the multiple missions that we see before us here at the IRS.
Tom Temin: And two of the big areas – one is the scanning office, and they say don’t scan, but scan. They make that distinction there for the whole area of customer service. Then there is the long-standing modernization of back office systems, master data file system, etc. Are you involved in any purchases related to these because these seem to be in the foreground.
Guy Torres: These will be the priorities right now, as you see within the IRS, trying to make the organization faster, faster, providing the taxpayer with a better customer experience, while providing enforcement capabilities to deter the fraud as well as identity theft issues currently facing US taxpayers. So these correspond perfectly to what we are trying to do. And IT modernization will improve the capabilities we need to deliver.
Tom Temin: And what are these missions in these groups that do this type of work, telling you that they need the purchasing function?
Guy Torres: So what they need for the procurement function, Tom, is the desire to deliver faster, more agile and innovative procurement solutions, keeping pace with technology. So my job is to try to provide these services, while maintaining their procurement, the integrity of the federal procurement process, by ensuring that we are exercising contractual actions that are in the best interest of the public good.
Tom Temin: And one of those functions, the scanning office has some 14 contracts across the street awaiting delivery of the goods under them, and they were all fulfilled – the contracts – in a matter of weeks. And this is interesting, because the IRS does not have the power of “other transaction authority” like many agencies do. So you did pretty much everything through the FAR. And yet, they were able to demonstrate how quickly you can get contracts for crucial projects on the streets. So tell us about the idea of speed. And the need for speed, which comes quite often from administration in a lot of areas, how it boils down to procurement, when you don’t have OTA and you just have FAR.
Guy Torres: So again, we are trying to find some innovative ways through FAR, in fact, to maintain the integrity of purchasing and provide services and procurement goods while keeping pace with technology. Because technology evolves, isn’t it. And we must continue to have the technology to support our missions. We therefore find creative, legal means in the field of FAR, and provide, execute. Instead of being risk averse, we want to be proactive and try to move forward to deliver the best practices that we believe can help the client, who in our case is the CIO, to other organizations. within the IRS.
Tom Temin: Sure. And of course, the FAR is a pretty flexible document. It’s like a violin, you just need to know how to play it.
Guy Torres: Play well, right? But make mistakes, but play well. And it’s about practice and practice and practice, Tom.
Tom Temin: And you can always put in a new chain if you break one. We speak with Guy Torres. He was recently appointed the new Deputy Director of Purchasing at the IRS. And let’s talk about you for a minute, you’ve been in government, you’ve done purchases, you’ve worked for customs and border protection – another agency that’s really stepped into the digital age, through au minus a project. that I know of is automating the dozen scores, maybe hundreds of forms that he publishes for the people he meets. What did you learn there and how does it help the IRS work?
Guy Torres: When I was at CBP, I was fortunate enough to manage DHS’s largest IT acquisitions portfolio, which accounts for 40% of our annual budget, or roughly $ 1.5 billion at the time. And when I was at CBP, the IT modernization effort that was going on at CBP is very similar to what I’m experiencing here at the IRS and actually prepared me very well for what I expect. it’s happening here at the IRS as we lead the IT modernization And the main takeaways when I was at CBP that helped us be successful were our ability to pair up for early dinner with our program office to help them define their needs, as well as provide active and engaging industry transparency, which helped provide the best solutions and ongoing collaboration with industry that will help meet the requirements we needed.
Tom Temin: And the more you can do that, I guess the more agile the whole can become, in a way parallel to the agile development methodology of the projects themselves, okay?
Guy Torres: Yes.
Tom Temin: OK. And you don’t like to go easy on the agencies, you also had roles in the Marine Corps, too, in the FBI, tell us a little about those.
Guy Torres: It was a fantastic opportunity. So I was fortunate to be commissioned into the Marine Corps and was in the Marine Corps for over 10 years. And when I retired from the Marine Corps, I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to work as a unit chief in the FBI. And it was fantastic to work with a great law enforcement agency.
Tom Temin: OK. And on the private sector side, I’m looking at your biography. You were the Homeland Security Account Manager at Northrop Grumman. It’s a big job. How has that affected your understanding of what it’s like to deal with industry on the government side, to have to deal with government on the industry side?
Guy Torres: Excellent question, Tom. And I think it actually helped me better understand and understand how important it is for the government to define its requirements. When I realized that when I was in the private sector you understand the vagueness and ambiguity of this requirement, I realized that on the industry side we end up spending a lot of money and a lot of money. time – the cost of doing business of trying to define what the government really wants. So the conclusion I got from that was in my current job, now my goal is to make sure that we and the Office of Supply Operations, do a better job with our program managers, work in partnership with them to help define and refine this requirement, as well as being able to communicate in a way that makes sense. And it’s simple and less complicated. Because if you keep it simple, it’s easier for the industry to figure it out and provide you with a solution that makes sense and supports the mission. So that’s what my end in mind is there.
Tom Temin: But if, for example, you specify or set requirements for replacement screws for an airplane spoiler, then you can provide a very detailed drawing and the screw threads etc. How do you translate that precision in the requirements into something like we want to improve the customer experience using these forms and automate these forms?
Guy Torres: Well, when you envision a more open need, an open requirement, part of the engagement with industry will be to have active exchange, active engagement with industry on many levels, many times to help provide information, providing information, as well as seeking information from industry and engaging industry to meet these additional requirements. And help us define it. We are doing this now in many cases, on the IT modernization effort, you will see more in the future when we ask for information to get ideas and help us, help define those requirements because we know where we want go Go. But maybe we need to adapt it to how we get there. And we would like to have the contribution of the industry, because it will be our partner. And our success lies in engaging the industry and how it can partner with us as we move forward.
Tom Temin: And is it also important to convince program owners that they might not be trying to buy everything all at once. But choose your increments with that end goal in mind? Because that also seems to be the trend away from big design failures.
Guy Torres: You mentioned working with program managers. And another of our goals in the Office of Supply Operations is to ideally become that credible and trusted advisor to the program manager and program officers. So we are a force multiplier instead of being an obstacle or a roadblock in a supply chain.
Tom Temin: And after three months, do you like the IRS?
Guy Torres: I really do. This is an excellent question. I laugh like you said because I love it and what I love is people. The people are dedicated and the people are focused and the people want to make a difference and it’s a great place right now.
Tom Temin: Guy Torres is Deputy Director of Purchasing at the IRS. Thank you very much for joining me.
Guy Torres: My pleasure.