Census counts on Lockheed to build $49M imaging system

The Census Bureau this month awarded to Lockheed Martin Federal Systems a $49 million contract to build the system that will digitally capture data from the tens of millions of census forms sent in for the 2000 census.

Lockheed Martin and its subcontractors Electronic Data Systems Corp. and CACI Inc. will design integrate install and support a document imaging system called the Data Capture System 2000 which will for the first time digitally capture the image of census forms automatically convert the image data to text-based data and edit and repair data that cannot be automatically converted.

DCS 2000 will allow the bureau to capture census data quicker and more accurately than before by introducing improved optical mark and character recognition capabilities and as a result rely less on manual input to capture data.

"If the recognition rate stays high we will only need to manually key in a fraction of what we did in 1990 " said Mike Longini chief of decennial systems and the contract management office at Census. "The processing time will improve and costs will [go down] because we won't have to rely [as much] on manpower. The errors we get with keying will be reduced or eliminated."

The system also will use more precise optical answer recognition that can determine the difference between marks that are actual answers to questions and marks that are stray lines.

Lockheed Martin will have 100 days to process about 120 million census forms which will contain about 1 billion pages total.

Completed census forms will be sent to one of four data processing centers across the country each of which will house a DCS 2000 system. A statement of work to build and manage these centers will be released in mid-April. Once the centers convert and process the forms the data will be transmitted to Census headquarters and merged with other census data.

Two-Phase Approach

The four-year contract will be conducted in two phases: Lockheed Martin will provide equipment supplies and services to build pre-production systems in the first phase and provide full-scale deployment of the systems in the second phase. DCS 2000 will be tested during the March 1998 census dress rehearsal which will simulate the 2000 census.

After the 2000 census has been completed Census will most likely use a scaled-down version of DCS 2000 for its smaller programs such as continuous economic surveys. The bureau has not yet decided whether it will lease or buy the equipment.

George Walden vice president of business development at Lockheed Martin said the company had similar experience with large-scale imaging systems when it developed the Internal Revenue Service's Document Processing System. "The Census contract is one of the most important imaging contracts to come along since DPS " Walden said. "As a result of DPS we decided to diversify into other agencies such as the Census Bureau."

For the 1990 census Census used an internally developed system which will be replaced by DCS 2000. "We will certainly utilize some aspects of the other system " Walden said. "There are some hardware components that are still being viewed as good products such as the sheet feeder [Census] developed."

Lockheed Martin plans to work closely with the agency through integrated product teams to plan system requirements Walden said. DCS 2000 will be built using commercial off-the-shelf products and will require minimal customization he added.

CACI will provide the independent verification and validation work on DCS 2000 and EDS will participate in planning the system and deployment support and training services.

Other bidders on the contract include Arthur Andersen Consulting with subcontractor Northrop Grumman Corp. and TRW Inc. with subs Digital Equipment Corp. and Eastman Kodak Co.

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