Oversight

Lawmakers press Census Bureau on readiness

U.S. Capitol (Photo by f11photo / Shutterstock) 

Lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are running out of patience with Census leaders as time grows short before key tests of the bureau's readiness to conduct the 2020 population count.

In a letter to acting Census Director Ron Jarmin, committee chairman Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) along with Government Operations subcommittee leaders Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) and Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) pressed for a response to unanswered questions on IT systems readiness originally posed in November.

"The bureau's failure to respond to the committee's request is unacceptable," they write. "Provide the requested documents and information immediately."

Specifically, the members want a list of which systems are necessary to successfully conduct the 2020 count; the most recent delivery schedule for all IT systems that will be part of a key 2018 test; documents relating to the cost changes of the Central Enterprise Data Collection and Dissemination system; and any documents pertaining to contingency planning.

The lawmakers also want the delivery and testing schedule of all IT systems that will be used in the 2020 enumeration to be updated on a monthly basis through April 1, 2020.

In all, the bureau must develop more than 40 IT systems, including its centralized data collection system, for use during peak operations of its 2018 test.

The Government Accountability Office has taken issue with Census's criteria for "readiness." The bureau's position, as of late January, is that 24 of the 44 systems needed for the 2018 test are ready for use.

In the letter, the representatives said a series of briefings with GAO about Census IT system readiness have "heightened our initial concerns," and that the committee plans to hold a hearing March 8 with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross.

The Census Bureau still doesn't know if it's going to receive a requested increase in 2018 funding. Ross requested a $187 million increase, plus an additional $50 million in contingency funding; those requests have yet to be funded. The bureau also has been without a permanent director since John Thompson's retirement at the end of June 2017.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a staff writer covering civilian agencies, workforce issues, health IT, open data and innovation.

Prior to joining FCW, Gunter reported for the C-Ville Weekly in Charlottesville, Va., and served as a college sports beat writer for the South Boston (Va.) News and Record. He started at FCW as an editorial fellow before joining the team full-time as a reporter.

Gunter is a graduate of the University of Virginia, where his emphases were English, history and media studies.

Click here for previous articles by Gunter, or connect with him on Twitter: @WChaseGunter

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