House Ways and Means Committee member Rep. David Schweikert, R-Ariz., grilled Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Daniel Werfel at a hearing this week about what he called the agency’s slow pace in adopting cloud-based technologies.

The Arizona Republican expressed dismay that the agency – which is kicking off a years-long IT modernization campaign – has not moved more decisively toward cloud-based technologies when compared to other Federal agencies.

“The Department of Defense did this a decade ago, and you guys are still putzing around with it – it’s absurd that you still have that server farm in West Virginia, it really is,” the congressman said.

On a somewhat more positive note, Rep. Schweikert said he was happy to see that IRS has begun to utilize chatbots on its website to foster a better customer experience, but he said a lot more remained to be done.

“I’m just desperate [about] what can I do to drag you in to the adoption of the technology that is truly customer centric,” he said.

Rep. Schweikert also argued that the agency must focus on migrating data to cloud-based technologies, and to avoid any move to replace current on-prem systems with updated on-prem tech. “I don’t want you to replace it, I want to you to migrate,” he said, while insisting that replacing existing on-prem systems would be much more costly than migrating to cloud-based systems.

Werfel said during the hearing that IRS is examining adoption of cloud-based technologies as part of its modernization analysis. He also reiterated that putting new technology in place – and achieving improved cybersecurity – are high on his list of priorities.

“Data security is a top priority – I’m in the process of assessing where our strengths and gaps are, and I want those gaps to be closed, “said Werfel.

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Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon
Jose Rascon is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.