House panel to explore problems with 2010 Census

Responding to calls from committee Republicans, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) has set a tentative date for a House hearing on potential problems with the 2010 Census.

GOP committee members sent Waxman a letter March 11 asking for a hearing. The request came after a March 5 hearing before the Senate Governmental where Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez and Census Bureau Director Stephen Murdock suggested scaling back the role of handheld computer devices and using paper questionnaires for follow-up surveys.

The agencies are evaluating how to deal with the issue, but Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) wanted the committee to get involved.

“We believe it imperative the committee be an integral part of these discussions,” Davis said in a press release accompanying the letter.

Waxman wrote back, telling Davis a committee hearing would be held April 9.

The bureau’s difficulties setting requirements and timelines with lead contractor Harris were the primary problems with the Field Data Collection Automation portion of the census. The FDCA handles address collection and followup surveys.

The problems spurred officials of the Government Accountability Office to put the 2010 Census on the oversight agency’s high-risk list.

Davis made a similar effort in early January with the help of Rep. Mike Turner (R-Ohio). That request came after third-party evaluators from Mitre warned the bureau to consider a backup paper system.

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