Census management improves, but budget questions linger

Lawmakers and oversight officials must wait until next month to get a final cost estimate for the field data collection automation (FDCA) portion of the 2010 census.

Prime contractor Harris said the company will submit a final cost proposal for the program July 15.
Originally, Harris estimated the paper-based FDCA would cost $1.3 billion, but a May 19 evaluation by Mitre lowered that estimate to $726 million.

“The difference is mind-boggling and makes no sense,” said David Powner, director of information technology management issues at the Government Accountability Office, at a June 11 hearing held by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Powner said the Harris estimate was based on assumptions that were different from the ones Mitre used for its estimate. Mitre’s assumptions, particularly for software development and common support costs, most likely caused the drop in the estimated cost, Powner added.

Harris provided handheld computers that census enumerators would have used for follow-up surveys of households that didn’t respond to initial census mailings. However, the Census Bureau changed its plans and decided earlier this year to use standard paper forms instead of handheld devices for the follow-up surveys. The bureau plan to use the handhelds for address canvassing remains in place.

Despite the uncertain costs, Powner praised Census officials for stabilizing requirements and establishing better communication with Harris. Census Director Steve Murdock said the agency will issue no additional requirements specifications for the handheld devices.

However, committee members reiterated that they would not tolerate an improper or incomplete census in 2010. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) and 50 co-sponsors introduced a resolution last week that asks the Commerce Department to use all legal and responsible means to count every U.S. citizen.

“Passing this resolution would be a strong statement from Congress that a failed census is simply not acceptable,” an Issa staff member said.

Featured

  • Cybersecurity

    DHS floats 'collective defense' model for cybersecurity

    Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen wants her department to have a more direct role in defending the private sector and critical infrastructure entities from cyberthreats.

  • Defense
    Defense Secretary James Mattis testifies at an April 12 hearing of the House Armed Services Committee.

    Mattis: Cloud deal not tailored for Amazon

    On Capitol Hill, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis sought to quell "rumors" that the Pentagon's planned single-award cloud acquisition was designed with Amazon Web Services in mind.

  • Census
    shutterstock image

    2020 Census to include citizenship question

    The Department of Commerce is breaking with recent practice and restoring a question about respondent citizenship last used in 1950, despite being urged not to by former Census directors and outside experts.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.