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Contact:  Rich Mills/Ann Marie Hauser
Office of the Secretary
U.S. Department of Commerce
Washington, D.C. 20230
202-482-4883
www.commerce.gov

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  Thursday, April 3, 2008

COMMERCE NEWS: Serious 2010 Census Challenges to Be Swiftly Addressed

Clear Internal and External Agreement That 2010 Census Can Succeed
With Major Operational and Budgetary Changes

U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos M. Gutierrez today announced that after reviewing the findings of internal and external panels regarding the 2010 Census, he is swiftly directing major operational and budgetary changes to ensure a fully successful decennial count. These changes will reassign key duties between the Census Bureau and a private contractor, allowing each to target their respective strengths and experiences on different aspects of the planning and execution of the 2010 Census and returning the Census Bureau to paper for its non-response follow-up count. The Census Bureau is part of the Commerce Department.

"The 2010 Census is one of the highest priorities and most important responsibilities of the Commerce Department. While important aspects of the Census are on track, there are significant schedule, performance and cost issues for the Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program and human and technological resource needs. The situation is unacceptable," Secretary Gutierrez said. "Over the last month or so, a clear sense has emerged: to have a fully successful 2010 Census, we must immediately revamp some programs, refocus priorities and get on top of the challenges. The American people expect and deserve a timely and accurate Decennial Census and the Department and I won't rest until they have it."

Gutierrez announced in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies that the Census Bureau will need an additional $2.2 to $3.0 billion in funding over the next five years to meet the replan needs. The Administration is currently seeking a $33 million reprogramming within Census and will also seek legislation that would allow it to transfer $166 to $233 million in unused FY08 funds from other Commerce bureaus to the Census Bureau. Therefore, no new resources will be required in the current fiscal year. In addition, the Administration plans to amend its FY09 budget request to reflect the need for significant additional resources. Current rough estimates place the additional 2009 funding need at approximately $600 to $700 million. This request will be fully offset to stay within the President's overall spending levels.

Multiple internal and external reviews have identified continuing Census challenges across a number of areas, including adequate planning over key systems requirements, key technology requirements, specification of operational control system characteristics and functions and regional center technology infrastructure. Gutierrez outlined conceptually two major problem areas: the management and implementation of the technology needs of the FDCA effort; and non-FDCA related planning challenges and cost increases. Gutierrez noted that key aspects of the Census Bureau's operations perform well and are on budget, particularly the annual American Community Survey (ACS). The ACS is a new service that provides annual economic and social data, allowing the decennial count to use a simplified six-question form which will make it easier to fill out.

Gutierrez also announced that management and oversight of the 2010 Census would be strengthened and deepened both at the Census Bureau and at the Department.

Among those providing input to Gutierrez's decision were the Government Accountability Office (GAO); the non-profit MITRE Corporation; the Department's Inspector General; the 2010 Census FDCA Risk Reduction Task Force (created in February); an independent panel of experts including a former Speaker of the House, former Census Bureau directors, a former Census decennial director, information technology specialists; and senior management within the Department and the Census Bureau.

Transferring funds within the Commerce Department will providethe FDCA programthe additional resources it needs quickly and in a budget neutral manner. Areas totransfer moniesfrom other Bureaus, after the Department receives legislative authority,will be chosen to minimize disruption, and only unobligated funds will be affected.

FDCA

The Census Bureau contracted in 2006 with the Harris Corporation, a private contractor, to develop the technological infrastructure to support automated data collection, including the development of wireless handheld computers to conduct the FDCA effort. FDCA comprised three major parts: use of handheld computers for address canvassing and Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU); the Operations Control System (OCS) that provides field managers with current information on work load and other indicators of the progress of the Census operations; and Census Operations Infrastructure at regional and local Census offices.

Today, Gutierrez specifically announced an important modification to FDCA: the Census Bureau will conduct a paper-based NRFU process, rather than using the handheld computers, which will now be used exclusively for the Address Canvassing (AdCan) effort. These modifications will allow Harris Corporation to fully focus on an automated AdCan, while Census can focus on conducting the NRFU using paper, a process the Bureau has successfully completed in past censuses. Working with Harris, the Census Bureau has already successfully transferred the large database of Census records from paper to secure digitized records.

Gutierrez said that concerns about the FDCA program grew over time, with Census and Commerce officials becoming increasingly aware of the significance of the problems through internal assessments, GAO and Inspector General reviews, and the 2007 Address Canvassing Dress Rehearsal.

Gutierrez outlined four general options that guided today's announcement a Baseline Option that would continue all project activities as originally planned with the contractor and three alternatives, of which he has decided to implement Alternative Option 2. There are four key activities involved in the alternatives: Address canvassing (AdCan) the compiling of household addresses in preparation for the Census mailout; Non-Response Follow-Up (NRFU) used to collect data from nonrespondents to the mailed questionnaires; the Operations Control System (OCS) used to provide communication between key personnel in the Census data collection process; and the Regional Census Center (RCC) Infrastructure. In the baseline option, Harris is responsible for all but the RCC Infrastructure.

The three alternatives would all move the NRFU process to paper and would have the development activities related to this process completed by the Census Bureau; all the alternatives would include the continued use of automated technology provided by the contractor in the address canvassing process:

  • Alternative Option 1 not only moves NRFU to the Bureau, but also the OCS, while keeping the RCC Infrastructure development with Census.
  • Alternative Option 2 would move NRFU to Census while keeping the RCC Infrastructure at Census, leaving the AdCan and OCS with the contractor.
  • Alternative Option 3 would move NRFU to the Census, move RCC Infrastructure to the contractor, and leave all other processes with the contractor.

The determination was made that Census did not have the human resources to effectively manage the additional effort needed to ensure a successful AdCan while simultaneously managing the development of an automated NRFU, and that the risks of returning to a paper-based NRFU would be less.

"Shifting our non-response follow-up back to Census, which has great experience using the tried and true paper system, will remove uncertainties and allow both Census and Harris to deliver the best Census possible and focus on what they can do best," Gutierrez said.

Following his January 4, 2008 swearing-in, Census Director Steve Murdock began a top-to-bottom review of all the components of the 2010 Census. As part of this review, Director Murdock launched on February 6 the 2010 Census FDCA Risk Reduction Task Force, which was headed by Bill Barron, a former deputy director and acting director of the U.S. Census Bureau, and made up of members from various parts of the Census Bureau, the Department of Commerce, and outside consultants from the MITRE Corporation, an independent not-for-profit corporation that operates a Federally Funded Research Development Center (FFRDC) under contract with the Census Bureau.

Planning for the 2010 Census began soon after the 2000 Census, and incorporated new or improved components, including: a new annual American Community Survey (ACS) to replace the Decennial Census long-form and provide more timely data; an improved address list and mapping database that brings all street center lines into GPS alignment; a new short-form only Decennial Census; technology to capture data from paper, telephone and field sources; and replacement of legacy systems for tabulating and disseminating results. A major aspect of this reengineered Census will be data collected using handheld computers (HHCs) for Address Canvassing. This is conducted in the year prior to the decennial to verify housing unit addresses in each census block. HHCs were to have been used for Non-Response Follow-Up, which collects information from households that do not return the Census questionnaire by mail, and for other processes; under the replan, NRFU will now be paper-based.

A dress rehearsal conducted in spring 2007 uncovered issues with the systems and requirements for Address Canvassing. The challenges with Address Canvassing require additional work on the part of the contractor and Census and raised the need to reevaluate the extent to which Census should rely upon the handhelds for the Non-Response Follow-Up operation. The determination was made that Census did not have the human resources to effectively manage the additional effort needed to ensure a successful AdCan while simultaneously managing the development of an automated NRFU, and that the risks of returning to a paper-based NRFU would be less.

Cost Drivers/ Budgetary Impact

In his testimony before the House Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, Gutierrez said that the Census Bureau will need an additional $2.2 to $3.0 billion in funding over the next five years to meet the replan needs. The Administration is currently seeking a $33 million reprogramming within Census and will also seek legislation that would allow it to transfer $166 to $233 million in FY08 funds from other Commerce bureaus to the Census Bureau. Therefore, no new resources will be required in the current fiscal year. In addition, the Administration will amend its FY09 budget request to reflect the need for significant additional resources. Current rough estimates place the additional 2009 funding need at approximately $600 to $700 million. This request will be offset to stay within the President's overall spending levels.

Gutierrez outlined some increased approximated cost projections, some of which are related to the FDCA program, and some of which reflect other requirements:

  • People, Productivity, and Workload: $1.0 to $1.3 billion>
  • Additional enumerators and lowered productivity estimates
  • Technology Costs: $500 million
    • Help Desk
    • Upgrades to data capture system (DRIS)
    • Regional Census Center Network
    • Data Center
    • Paper NRFU Control System

Other Costs: $300 million

  • Increased gas prices
  • Increased printing
  • End-to-end testing
  • Personally Identifiable Information Protection
  • Increased postage

The life cycle cost for the Reengineered 2010 Census was estimated at $11.8 billion in the FY 2009 Budget Request, including $1.8 billion for the American Community Survey which replaced the long-form. The new estimated life cycle cost for the 2010 Census is $13.7 to $14.5 billion.

Since the 1970 Decennial Census, costs have risen substantially from one decennial to the next. In 2010 dollars, the 2000 Census life cycle would have cost approximately $8.2 billion; a 100 percent increase over the 1990 Census ($4.1 billion); which was about a 58 percent increase over the 1980 Census ($2.6 billion); which was a 160 percent increase over the 1970 Census ($1.0 billion).

Decennial Census Background

The decennial census is the Census Bureau's highest priority, and is mandated by Article 1, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution. The development and execution of the decennial census is the nation's largest peacetime mobilization. Three years before the census, data are sent to states, local and tribal governments for Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA), so that communities can verify the accuracy of or propose additions to census address information. This enables the Census Bureau to start with the most complete address list.

Two years before the decennial, a limited number of local census offices are opened to begin census field operations providing thousands of temporary job opportunities at competitive local rates. Dress rehearsals are conducted in selected areas to preview census operations in environments that reflect those expected to exist in the census year, giving the Bureau the opportunity to evaluate the success of these operations and to improve upon functions that will actually be used in conducting the upcoming decennial. A field check of all addresses, called the Address Canvassing operation, is conducted in the year prior to the decennial to verify housing unit addresses in each census block.

Questionnaires are mailed to every household in the nation in March of the decennial year: this one being 2010. "Census Day" is April 1, 2010. For those who do not submit their completed questionnaire by mid-April, a Non-Response Follow-Up operation begins to interview personally households that did not respond. To staff those offices with the best possible workforce, the Census Bureau conducts over one million interviews. By December 31 of the decennial year, the Secretary is required by law (13 U.S.C. ยง141) to report population counts to the President. The population count is used by the Congress for reapportionment of the U.S. House of Representatives. Census data is also used by the states for redistricting and is the basis for an annual distribution of $300 billion through federal funding formulas. The Census Bureau must deliver the results for redistricting to state legislatures by April 1 of the year following the census to permit redistricting.

The Reengineered Decennial Census New Technology and Approach

As planned after the completion of the 2000 Census, the 2010 Census was to be reengineered to include the following components:

  • Replace the so-called "long-form," which had been collected from one in six households during the decennial, with the ACS, which is mailed each year to three million households to collect the "long-form" data. The ACS allows the Bureau to conduct a "short-form"-only decennial while providing more timely and more accurate social and economic data. The successful implementation of ACS on an annual basis is a huge improvement under the Reengineered Census effort over the past practice of gathering such information only every 10 years.
  • Increase the accuracy of Census maps by implementing a digital geospatial data base the Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing Accuracy Improvement Project (MAF/TIGER). The TIGER portion of the project is a digital database that identifies the type, location and name of streets, rivers, railroads and other geographic features, and geospatially defines their relationships to each other, to the MAF addresses, and to numerous other entities. Improvements included the redesign of the databases and replacement of the application software. Delivery of the updated maps for the United States, Puerto Rico and the Island areas is complete and will be incorporated into the database.
  • Create a more efficient and effective short-form Census by taking advantage of ACS and TIGER, as well as automating many of the data collections operations such as using handheld computers to perform Address Canvassing, which is conducted the year prior to the decennial to verify housing unit addresses in each census block.

The Census Bureau and Commerce officials are committed that Census data will remain protected, regardless of how they are collected. Since 2006, the Census Bureau has taken steps to enhance security on the laptop computers currently used in field operations. This includes full disk encryption with an added layer of encryption so that data remain fully protected, and rigorous administrative procedures and access protocols to ensure that only those Census officials with a need to see the data can obtain it. These systems are regularly tested and reinforced. For all 2010 Census systems, including the handheld computers used by Census enumerators, specific security controls are being tested and implemented. These include two-factor authentication requiring a thumb- or fingerprint, and multi-layer encryption of the devices.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Public Information Office | PIO@census.gov | Last Revised: September 09, 2014