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Director's Blog: Farewell

June 30, 2017
Written by: John H. Thompson

As my tenure at the U.S. Census Bureau comes to an end, I want to recognize the hard work and notable achievements that Census Bureau employees have accomplished over the last few years. As the leading source of quality data about America’s people, places and economy, the Census Bureau is always hard at work on a huge range of programs and projects. We’re always striving to serve our customers better — whether they are responding to a survey or want data about their community or businesses.

Some of the great things we’ve accomplished in the last few years include:

  • The 2020 Census will be the most automated and technologically advanced ever. Innovations in the operational plan will make it easier than ever for people to respond to the census and will save taxpayers money compared to doing the census the old way.
  • As the nation’s largest ongoing household survey, the American Community Survey (ACS) produces statistics annually – down to the block group level – for every community in America. We created the Agility in Action plan to reduce burden for ACS respondents, while still allowing the survey to be responsive to emergent issues, keeping content current and maintaining high quality data.
  • We’ve improved our economic statistics, using Big Data and new response options to reduce respondents’ burden and increase the timeliness and granularity of our statistics. We laid the foundation for a transformed 2017 Economic Census with internet data collection that makes it easier for businesses to respond, increases efficiency and accelerates the release of data products.
  • We continued to refine enterprise-wide risk management to improving the efficiency and effectiveness of our work. For the 2020 Census, we worked on a rigorous risk management process, and we’ve developed mitigation plans for all risks and contingency plans where appropriate.
  • We completed tribal consultations on the 2020 Census throughout the nation. Building awareness about the census’ importance is essential in motivating response across our diverse nation, including the American Indian Alaska Native population living both on and off tribal lands.
  • We’re designing, developing and deploying IT solutions that get data to the public faster than ever. Every person in America now has access to the economic indicators in as little as one second after their release. This improvement is a response to our customers’ requests for more timely access to our data.
  • We made organizational health one of our top agency priorities. To help maintain our organizational health in the midst of change, we created “transformation cohorts” – rotating groups of employees that help implement best practices from organizations that have undergone major transformations.
  • We successfully refined our field organization structure. This will improve communications between survey supervisors.
  • We made big strides in streamlining and improving administrative processes. As part of revamping our hiring processes, we established the Census Emerging Professionals Program, a competitive, two-year initiative to help clerical and administrative employees “bridge” into professional and technical career paths.
  • We introduced major improvements to our geographic products and services. We launched the Geographic Support System Initiative (GSSI), a multi-year effort to identify, collect and process the most current and accurate address and street data from tribal, state and local governments.
  • We initiated an agency-wide effort to integrate and standardize data collection and processing services – the Census Enterprise Data Collection and Processing (CEDCaP) program.
  • We’ve made a lot of progress in the field of disclosure avoidance. We want to disseminate the most accurate, granular data possible. At the same time, we have the responsibility to protect the confidentiality of our respondents’ data. We’re actively researching ways to deliver statistics that meet users’ needs and limits reconstruction.
  • We began collecting data for the new Annual Survey of Entrepreneurs as part of a three-year pilot project in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation and the Minority Business Development Agency. 
  • Tracking and managing our performance is critical to our work, and we’re implementing new and innovative ways to do that. For example, this year we implemented a new tool that allows employees in the field to review and sign their performance plans electronically. The tool is such a success that we’ll be rolling it out at Census Bureau headquarters later this year.
  • Along with the U.S. Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Committee on Statistical Methodology, we’re working on new standards for combining structured and unstructured data sources to produce key federal statistics. These standards will make it possible for the federal statistical system to provide new, innovative data products for our users.
  • We undertook a digital transformation to help data users more easily find the information they want. We made major upgrades to to make searching and exploring data easier. We developed new tools using the latest technologies, like our Application Programming Interface, which recently surpassed three billion unique hits from developers.
  • Since my confirmation, I’ve participated in seven Congressional hearings. I appreciated Congress’ interest in our work and the opportunity to update legislators on the 2020 Census. I was pleased to be able to report that we are on schedule and on the critical path to readiness.

I’m proud of these impressive accomplishments, but I’m even more proud of Census Bureau employees. These achievements wouldn’t be possible without their diligent, excellent, and ongoing efforts. I’m confident that the Census Bureau is in good hands and that its great work will continue in the years to come.


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