Big Dig to Baghdad?

Andrew Natsios leaves tunnel project in Boston to help oversee the rebuilding of Iraq. Plus: Langdon departing from IRS.
CFO StaffJune 1, 2003

Andrew Natsios walked into a fiscal nightmare when he left his job as Secretary for Administration and Finance for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to take the helm at the Central Artery/Tunnel Project, aka the Big Dig. But the Big Dig now looks like the farm team for his new gig — administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), which is coordinating the rebuilding of Iraq. “No one’s life was at risk on the Big Dig,” says Natsios. “There are millions of lives at stake in Iraq.”

Not only is the human imperative bigger in Iraq, but the managerial challenges are more complicated.

“People who had my job in the past at USAID haven’t been interested in management and finance as a discipline, so the systems didn’t have the attention they needed,” says Natsios. As a result, “keeping all the funding streams separate,” and knowing what restrictions have been placed on each source, “has been the hardest part.”

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Like his position at the Big Dig, Natsios’s new job is also plunging him into controversy. Political adversaries and some media outlets have suggested that Natsios gave preferential treatment to Bechtel Group Inc., the firm that won the contract to coordinate the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructure. Bechtel was also one of the contractors that Natsios worked with on the Big Dig.

Natsios disputes the allegations, noting that Bechtel had been on the Big Dig for more than a decade when he joined the project in April 2000 — and one of his first tasks was to lower Bechtel’s profit margin. Natsios adds that at the end of the bidding for the Iraq project, Bechtel had the lowest price of seven bidders and the highest technical score. He has ordered a review of the process by the Inspector General to allay any lingering doubts.

Natsios gets high marks for integrity from observers. “He’s the kind of person we ought to want in government,” says David Luberoff, an associate director at Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and co-author with Alan Altshuler of Mega-Projects: The Changing Politics of Urban Public Investment. “He’s smart, well-read, and willing to call a spade a spade.” —Kris Frieswick

Taxing Eloquent

“I’ve had one of the most interesting jobs in Washington,” says outgoing Internal Revenue Service official Larry R. Langdon. And Langdon, commissioner of the IRS’s Large and Mid-Size Business (LMSB) Division, can support that claim.

Since emerging from retirement four years ago, the former Hewlett-Packard Co. vice president has worked tirelessly with former IRS commissioner Charles Rossotti to target abusive tax shelters and help the agency adjust to the global economy, and has managed an overhaul to make IRS units industry-based, rather than region-based.

The changes came just in time. The 9/11 terrorist attacks created enormous tax challenges, especially among airlines. “Within days of threatened bankruptcies, we got calls about refunding both the income and excise taxes that had been overpaid,” Langdon recalls. Under the new organization, “we could expedite those claims.”

Meanwhile, corporate accounting scandals cast a glaring spotlight on the IRS’s continuing tax-shelter offensive, and LMSB had success in speeding up the auditing process through its “limited issue focus examination.”

Langdon’s strategy for LMSB is likely to continue under Rossotti’s replacement, Mark Everson, and Langdon’s acting successor at LMSB, Deborah Nolan, who has been Langdon’s deputy.

Lawmakers have praised Langdon, who turns 65 this year. Crediting Langdon’s “common sense,” Sen. Max Baucus (D­Mont.) of the Senate Finance Committee says, “Larry helped implement the most sweeping changes at the IRS in 50 years — something I hope his successor will build upon.” —Roy Harris

CFOs on the Move

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