Census allows little time to build networks for temporary offices

Leasing strategy saves money, cuts lead time

The Census Bureau has built more than 500 temporary Census Bureau offices and developed information technology infrastructures for each of them. The Bureau needs the offices for the 2010 count, according to agency officials.

Harris Corp., Unisys and Automated Systems Design partnered on the projects to create computer networks for approximately 1.2 million temporary Census workers. The projects were challenging because of the fast pace and because the sites were so geographically dispersed, said Barbara Eskew, a senior program manager at ASD.

Census officials set up the leases on the sites to start as late as possible, saving money on rent but also cutting the available time for developing the infrastructures, Eskew said. 

“They did a very good job of compressing their build out schedule so that they would not have to take occupancy for much longer than they needed it,” she said. “We delivered an average of 26 sites per week for them.”

Harris and Unisys’ Federal Division supplied the IT infrastructure, support services, hardware and software to support the networks for the local Census offices. In addition, Harris hired subcontractor ASD to install network cabling at all the sites, according to ASD.

Another challenge was the diversity of the office space. Some buildings were modern, while others were historic structures with tricky floor plans for running cable. “One was an old school building with a cafeteria and a stage,” Eskew said.

Questionnaires from the Census Bureau are scheduled to be mailed this month and will reach most homes by March 15, according to Census officials.

A return rate between 70 percent and 80 percent is considered good, according to the Census Bureau. Temporary Census workers assigned to the local offices will venture out to the homes where responses were not returned to collect the information.

Once the data-collection phase of the Census is complete, the local offices and the IT infrastructures will be uninstalled, Eskew said. That will probably happen around January 2011, she said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Federal Computer Week.

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