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2014: Now is the Time for Change

Fri Feb 07 2014
John H. Thompson
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 As I begin my first calendar year as director, I am laying out priorities and looking at what is on the horizon for 2014. This is a big year for us, with key milestones in planning for the 2020 Census, releasing the first statistics from the 2012 Economic Census and continuing to release statistics that measure how the nation’s population and economy are changing. I am eager to share our plans with you.

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 I have had the privilege of serving as Census Bureau director for about six months now, and it has been a welcome return to the place where I spent a large part of my career. Prior to coming back to the Census Bureau, I spent 11 years at the independent research organization NORC at the University of Chicago.

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 My background gives me both an insider’s and outsider’s perspective on the Census Bureau, which helps guide my decisions for an agency in transition. Now is the time to research and make changes in the way we conduct our surveys and the next census in 2020. It is also imperative to improve how we deliver America’s statistics back to taxpayers and businesses.

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 While we continue to produce the quality statistics America relies upon for starting or growing a business and making informed decisions, we are also transforming the way we process surveys and censuses to make them more cost effective and timely. We know that many of you are looking to us to produce statistics more quickly. We must also produce them at a lower cost.

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 As we plan for the 2020 Census, we are focusing on four areas of exploration: providing multiple ways for response (including online), re-engineering our field operations and using data already available to reduce the burden on respondents. In addition, we are looking at using information already available in the geo-spatial world for use in our address canvassing operations.

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 Through the smart use of technology and existing government data sources, we are aiming for a 2020 Census that will provide substantial taxpayer savings while maintaining the highest quality and accuracy standards. In the coming months, I will blog more about our research and testing, including our 2014 test, beginning in April.

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This year, we will deliver the first statistics from the 2012 Economic Census, which are essential to understanding the competitiveness of U.S. business and industry and conducting sound public and private sector planning. The economic census takes place every five years and is the most authoritative and comprehensive source of information about U.S. businesses from the national to the local level.

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The Economic Census provides statistics that allow businesses, investors, policy makers, trade associations, chambers of commerce and others to answer vital questions, plan and grow. This spring, we will release the advance report from the Economic Census with preliminary totals for economic sectors. Additional reports will be released throughout the year and through 2016.

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 We are also continuing to incorporate the valuable feedback from you and all of our stakeholders into making our statistics easier to access and improving our processes. My predecessors, including Dr. Robert Groves, have put in place a good framework and environment to allow for this kind of valuable collaboration and consultation with our stakeholders and other outside experts. I am committed to building on this strong foundation.

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As part of our overall digital transformation, we have listened to your feedback, and we are redesigning our website to meet our centuries-old mission of making the statistics that define our growing, changing nation more accessible than ever before. In the coming weeks, you will see changes to our site. Soon, you will be able to preview a beta site, which will include improved thematic navigation. It will launch later this spring.

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 I will continue posting updates in the weeks and months ahead and I look forward to hearing your feedback.

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