Congress

Oversight chairman agrees to subpoena DOJ after census hearing no-show

By Gil C shutterstock ID 175538990 

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chair Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) is moving to subpoena the Department of Justice after the head of the Civil Rights Division skipped a hearing on the 2020 census.

John Gore, the political appointee reportedly behind the push to reinstate the controversial citizenship question, was invited to appear before the committee on May 8. Democrats called for Gowdy to subpoena DOJ in advance of the hearing. When Gore didn't show, the chairman agreed to issue a subpoena for him to appear before the committee May 18.

"He was invited by Congress… but he isn't here, which is disappointing to say the least," said Gowdy. "Most of my questions were actually for the witness who did not come," he said, adding, "he's coming to talk at some point or another whether he wants to or not… You have a guarantee from me."

The Justice Department declined to comment on Gore's no-show.

In addition to the questions spurred by the reinstatement of the citizenship question, the Census Bureau still has a range of operational challenges concerning its IT systems readiness and cybersecurity as it prepares for the 2020 count.

Dave Powner, the head of IT issues at the Government Accountability Office said, the bureau still has "key systems that need to be completed," including its operational control system, enumeration application and fraud detection system.

Of the 44 systems the bureau needs to deploy over the course of the 2018 end-to-end test, the bureau has maintained that 40 have deployed, though 10 of those will require future enhancements. Atri Kalluri, chief of the bureau's Decennial Information Technology Division, said in April that "30 systems have completed their development activities for the 2018 test with no further changes."

Powner testified that "most of the systems that have been deployed still need to undergo key integration testing to make sure they interface and interact appropriately with other systems." He said that "all but eight of 44 systems still need to undergo some sort of testing, and the 14 systems that still need to be delivered have significant testing remaining."

Entering the home stretch of preparations for the 2020 count, the bureau has identified three major risk areas: costs associated with late survey changes, public perception of the bureau's ability to safeguard response data and overall cybersecurity.

Regarding the data protection and cybersecurity of the systems, "six of the 44 systems have this sign-off [needed by the CIO], 32 need to be reassessed given changes to the systems, and another six need to be completed, including the fraud detection system," Powner testified. "These reviews are important to ensure cyber risks are at acceptable levels, especially since 39 of 44 systems contain personally identifiable information."

Robert Goldenkoff, GAO's director of strategic issues, also noted the bureau still has yet to resolve 30 of 84 recommendations made over the past decade, which could "directly or indirectly" impact the accuracy of the count.

"Among the recommendations that are still open, they deal with some research and testing, IT security, systems development, recommendations aimed at strengthening their cost estimation and scheduling processes," he said, adding that while the bureau still has yet to fully implement the recommendations, it's "encouraging" Census Bureau and Commerce officials "are working with us to implement the recommendations."

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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