Census unwraps RFP for DCS 2000 system

The Census Bureau gearing up for the Year 2000 decennial census released late last month a request for proposals for its Data Capture System 2000 the image-based system that will process the millions of census forms that the public will fill out.

As 2000 census forms come in DCS 2000 will digitally capture the forms' images automatically convert the image data to text-based data and edit and repair data that cannot be automatically converted.

Unlike its past development of DCS 2000 which Census stopped more than a year ago the bureau plans to build this system with mostly off-the-shelf products. Proposals are due Oct. 16 and Census expects to make an award on March 14 1997.

"DCS 2000 is breaking the sound barrier for us on two basic levels " said Arnold Jackson associate director for information technology at Census. "It's a brand-new technology we will implement digital imaging for the first time. I've also been leading the effort to use integrators to do a lot of what we did ourselves. What you have is a culmination of these two efforts."

Completed census forms will be sent to one of four data capture centers dispersed across the country each of which will house a DCS 2000 system. The four systems will be linked via a TCP/IP-based local-area network. Once the centers convert and process the forms the data will be transmitted to Census headquarters and merged with other census data.

DCS 2000 will have to be scalable according to the bureau because the workload at each data capture center will vary. Also the content and format of the census may not be finalized until 1999.

One of the key challenges facing the vendor who wins the DCS 2000 contract will be the requirement to process in just 100 days about 120 million census forms which amounts to about 1 billion pages.

"That's a lot of pages to be processed and paper to be fed and logistics to be managed " Jackson said.He added that management of the process not technology will be the biggest challenge Census will likely have to deal with.

"There's work being done in the classified world and at [the Internal Revenue Service] that has assured me that the technology is there " he said.

Census plans to award one contract for DCS 2000 and will conduct the procurement in two phases. The RFP calls for equipment supplies and services to build pre-production systems during Phase One and full-scale development and national deployment of the systems during Phase Two. Census will test DCS 2000 during a "dress rehearsal" in March 1998.

Census will issue a separate Data Capture Services contract to build and manage the data capture centers. One of the centers will be located in Jeffersonville Ind. where Census' permanent processing site is located.

Vendors interested in the contract include Lockheed Martin Corp. which will be bidding as a prime with team members CACI International Inc. and Electronic Data Systems Corp.

CACI plans to use its simulation and modeling capabilities to help design the system and will conduct independent verification and validation on DCS 2000 said Reed Phillips vice president of business development at CACI.

Jim Everett vice president of government sales at ScanOptics said the company is having discussions with vendors to supply its Model 7800 high-speed paper transport imaging scanner. The product "fits the Census Bureau requirements " he said.


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