Oversight

Enzi wants answers on Census IT costs

By Gil C shutterstock ID 175538990 

In a letter to new Census Director Steven Dillingham, Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) raised concerns about how the nearly $5 billion in IT spending is being managed by the bureau. To that end, Enzi pointed to the number of vacancies in a key program management office that oversees the bureau's IT integration contract. That contract, worth $890 million and awarded to the technology provider T-Rex Corporation, is Census' largest IT deal.

As of June 2018, 33 of the 58 positions in the office charged with overseeing the success of the contract were unfilled. Enzi said he fears these vacancies "could lead to additional costs, performance issues, and scheduling delays."

Fixing issues discovered in the 2018 end-to-end test, the dress rehearsal for the 2020 census, and making sure the IT systems are fully ready and protected against cyberthreats "will likely lead to further increased costs, such as additional staff or new technology," Enzi wrote.

At the bureau's final quarterly program management review of the decade Feb. 1, Associate Director of the Decennial Census Program Al Fontenot said the expected $15.6 billion cost remained unchanged "at this point in time," but that the bureau was "in the process" of assessing that estimate.

In the fall, the Government Accountability Office challenged the reliability of the $15.6 billion estimate, the most recent figure.

In his letter, Enzi asked Dillingham how many of those program office positions remain vacant, how to keep costs down and consistent with estimates and what the cost implications of hiring hundreds of thousands of employees in the current labor market will be.

On the IT front, he asked about the bureau's plans to ensure IT systems are fully tested and secured on time and what sorts of disaster-recovery measures are in place in the event of a cyberattack or disruption of service. He also asked about the rules governing the contingency fund requested by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross as part of the lifecycle cost estimate.

Enzi requested a response by Feb. 15.

About the Author

Chase Gunter is a former FCW staff writer.

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