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Before the Subcommittee on Federal Financial Management, Government 
Information, and International Security, Committee on Homeland Security 
and Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate: 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:30 p.m. EST: 

Tuesday, June 6, 2006: 

2010 Census: 

Costs and Risks Must be Closely Monitored and Evaluated with Mitigation 
Plans in Place: 

Statement of Brenda S. Farrell Acting Director, Strategic Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-06-822T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Federal Financial Management, Government Information and International 
Security, Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, U.S. 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The decennial census is a constitutionally mandated activity, with 
immutable deadlines. It produces data used to allocate about $200 
billion yearly in federal financial assistance, reapportion the seats 
of the House of Representatives, and provide a profile of the nation’s 
people to help guide policy decisions. The U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) 
estimates the 2010 Census will cost $11.3 billion, making it the most 
expensive census in the nation’s history, even after adjusting for 
inflation. Based primarily on GAO’s issued reports, this testimony 
addresses the extent to which the Bureau has (1) developed detailed and 
timely cost data for effective oversight and cost control, (2) reduced 
nonresponse mail follow up costs, and (3) produced risk mitigation 
plans to address identified challenges. 

What GAO Found: 

The Bureau’s most recent life-cycle cost estimate for the 2010 Census 
does not reflect the most current information from testing and 
evaluation nor provide complete information on how changing assumptions 
may affect cost. As GAO reported in January 2004, the Bureau derived 
its initial cost estimate by considering the cost of the 2000 Census 
along with certain assumptions that drive costs, such as staffing 
needs, the nonresponse rate for mailing back the census questionnaire, 
census worker productivity and pay rates, and inflation; however, GAO’s 
ongoing work has found that the most recent (September 2005) estimate 
does not incorporate current information on certain 2001 assumptions. 
For example, the 2004 Census Test suggests some assumptions about 
staffing and space associated with new technology have changed. 
Specifically, Bureau evaluations indicate that more staff at the local 
census office was needed to support the use of the new hand-held mobile 
computing device (MCD) and additional storage space was needed for the 

Since 2000, the Bureau has reengineered the decennial census and has 
begun new initiatives to reduce nonresponse follow up costs. Key to the 
Bureau’s steps to reduce the costs of nonresponse follow up is 
successfully using the MCDs to eliminate millions of paper 
questionnaires and maps. Importantly, the Bureau must first resolve the 
MCD’s technological challenges. During 2004 and 2006 tests, the MCDs 
had significant reliability problems. For example, in the 2004 test the 
MCDs experienced transmission problems, memory overloads, and 
difficulties with the mapping feature. Bureau officials have contracted 
the design and implementation for a new MCD that will not be ready 
until the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. If after the Dress Rehearsal the MCD is 
found not to be reliable, the Bureau could be faced with the remote but 
daunting possibility of having to revert to the costly paper-based 
Census used in 2000. 

The Bureau does not have risk mitigation plans to address certain 
identified challenges to a cost-effective census. Most notably, the 
Bureau does not have a plan to assess additional resources that may be 
needed to update the address and map file for areas affected by 
hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Moreover, the Bureau has not yet assessed 
whether new procedures will be necessary nor whether local partners 
will be available to assist in updating address and map data. Updating 
address files to reflect the changes caused by the hurricanes will be 
formidable, in part because, according to Red Cross estimates, nearly 
525,000 people were displaced in a 90,000 square mile area. Another 
risk to be mitigated stems from the need to closely monitor the 
performance of about $1.9 billion in contracts. The Bureau has agreed 
to take steps to mitigate some of those risks. For example, the Bureau 
has said it will enhance the ability of key contract project offices to 
better manage contracts through such actions as developing mitigation 
plans with milestones for key activities and regularly briefing senior 

What GAO Recommends: 

The Bureau is taking action on several of GAO’s recommendations to 
reduce nonresponse time and mitigate contract-related risks. A January 
2004 report contained recommendations to the Bureau for improving the 
transparency of the 2010 Census’ life-cycle costs. While the Bureau did 
not agree with this recommendation, the Bureau stated that in response 
it would develop a comprehensive project plan that would include 
milestones, itemized estimated costs, and measurable goals. 


To view the full product, including the scope and methodology, click on 
the link above. For more information, contact Brenda S. Farrell at 
(202) 512-6806 or 

[End of Section] 

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Carper, and Members of the Subcommittee: 

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the life- 
cycle costs of the 2010 Census as well as the actions that the U.S. 
Census Bureau (Bureau) is taking to contain those costs. The Bureau 
estimates the 2010 Census will cost $11.3 billion, which would make it 
the most expensive census in our country's history, even after 
adjusting for inflation. Since the 2000 Census, we have monitored how 
the Bureau has incorporated lessons learned from the 2000 Census into 
its planning for the next decennial census, as well as its cost and 
design. My overall point today is that the decennial's cost and risks 
must be closely monitored and evaluated, with mitigation plans in place 
to help ensure that accurate results are delivered on time and within 
projected costs. Based primarily on our issued reports, this testimony 
addresses the extent to which the Bureau has (1) developed detailed and 
timely cost data for effective oversight and cost control, (2) reduced 
nonresponse mail follow-up costs, and (3) produced risk mitigation 
plans to address identified challenges, such as assessing the resources 
that may be needed to update address files and maps in areas affected 
by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. I will also present the preliminary 
results of ongoing work--on which we plan to issue a report later this 
month--on the Bureau's efforts to build a complete and accurate address 
list, the foundation of a successful census. 

As you know, Mr. Chairman, the decennial census is a crucial, 
constitutionally mandated activity undertaken by the Bureau. The stakes 
for a successful census are very high. The data that the census 
produces are used to reapportion the seats of the U.S. House of 
Representatives; realign the boundaries of the legislative districts of 
each state; allocate about $200 billion dollars each year in federal 
financial assistance; and provide a social, demographic, and economic 
profile of the nation's people to guide policy decisions at each level 
of government. Further, businesses use census data to target new 
services and products and to tailor existing ones to demographic 

Mr. Chairman, I would like to commend the subcommittee for calling 
today's hearing, as past experience has shown that strong and 
continuing congressional involvement--especially while there is still 
time to make cost-effective decisions and influence the direction of 
the decennial census--is essential to the decennial's ultimate success. 
Today's hearing is particularly timely because the Bureau is currently 
holding the 2006 Census Test in the central portion of Travis County, 
Texas, and at the Cheyenne River American Indian Reservation and Tribal 
Trust Lands in South Dakota, where the Bureau is evaluating key 
operations and equipment it plans to employ for the full enumeration in 
2010. After this test, the Bureau will have only one more opportunity 
to assess its census-taking-procedures--a "Dress Rehearsal" scheduled 
for 2008. Moreover, after the Dress Rehearsal, the Bureau will begin to 
transition from preparatory to operational activities, leaving little 
room for delays or design changes, which at that point could 
significantly increase the cost of 2010 Census. 

Importantly, for decades we have been reviewing the national 
enumeration on behalf of Congress. Over the years, through a series of 
reports and testimonies, we have acquired broad institutional knowledge 
that gives us a historical view of the census. I want to highlight 
several broad themes that have emerged from our work. 

First, completing the decennial census is a monumental undertaking, and 
the Bureau recognizes that streamlined and efficient operations are 
critical for the census' cost-effectiveness. The Census' sheer size and 
complexity make it a risky and fragile enterprise. The 2000 Census, for 
example, involved the hiring of more than 500,000 enumerators on a 
temporary basis, opening 511 local census offices nationwide and 24,000 
questionnaire assistance centers, processing 1.5 billion sheets of 
paper, and in 10 weeks following up with 42 million nonrespondent 
households. The size of the census means that small problems can 
magnify quickly, and big problems could be overwhelming. For example, 
60 seconds might seem like an inconsequential amount of time, but in 
2000, if enumerators had spent just 1 minute more at each household 
during nonresponse follow-up, it could have added almost $10 million to 
the cost of the census, assuming a pay rate of around $13 per hour 
(wages ranged from $8.25 to $18.50 per hour for enumerators in 2000, 
depending on location). 

Second, sound risk management is important to a successful census 
because many risks are interrelated, and a shortcoming in one operation 
could cause other operations to spiral downward. For example, a low 
mail response rate would drive up the follow-up workload, which in turn 
would increase staffing needs and costs. (Of course, the reverse is 
also true, where a success in one operation could have a number of 
positive downstream impacts.) Rigorous up-front planning and testing, 
and where needed, risk mitigation plans are the best ways to stave off 
these problems. In the 2000 Census, the Bureau successfully planned and 
mitigated risk in recruiting and hiring workers by using management 
information systems capable of tracking key operations with real-time 
measures. To recruit the vast army of people needed to fill the ranks 
of its workforce for the 2000 Census, the Bureau set a recruitment goal 
of 2.4 million qualified applicants. Because the Bureau tracked the 
progress local census offices were making in meeting their individual 
goals, it was able to mitigate risk by quickly raising pay rates and 
taking other actions at those offices where recruitment was lagging. In 
the end, the Bureau exceeded its recruitment goal by 100,000 people. 

Third, the census is conducted against a backdrop of immutable 
deadlines, and the census' elaborate chain of interrelated pre-and post-
Census Day activities are predicated upon those dates. The Secretary of 
Commerce is legally required to (1) conduct the census on April 1 of 
the decennial year, (2) report the state population counts to the 
President for purposes of congressional apportionment by December 31 of 
the decennial year, and (3) send population tabulations to the states 
for purposes of redistricting no later than 1 year after the April 1 
census date. To meet these legally mandated reporting requirements, 
census activities need to take place at specific times and in the 
proper sequence. Bureau officials have recently stated, and we agree, 
that the design and plans being implemented are too far down the road 
and time is too short to allow for significant adjustments. In fact, as 
Census Day approaches, the tolerance for any operational delays becomes 
increasingly small. Indeed, considerable risk and cost increases could 
accompany design changes that occur late in the decade. This requires 
the Bureau to have risk-based mitigation plans in place now to ensure 
that 2010 Census operations are ready and that few, if any, changes to 
the fundamental design happen after the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. 

Based on the Bureau's desire to address the issues associated with the 
2000 enumeration, in designing the 2010 Census the Bureau had four 
goals in mind: (1) increase the relevance and timeliness of data, (2) 
reduce operational risk, (3) increase coverage and accuracy, and (4) 
contain costs. To achieve these goals, three components--all new 
operations--are important to the Bureau's plans for 2010: 

* enhancing procedures for its address list (the MAF--Master Address 
File) and the associated geographic information system (the TIGER®-- 
Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing 
database[Footnote 1]), 

* replacing the census long-form questionnaire with the American 
Community Survey (ACS)[Footnote 2], and: 

* conducting a short-form only decennial census that is supported by 
early research and testing. 

My remarks today are based primarily on reports that GAO issued from 
2002 through May 2006 on the planning and development of the 2010 
Census. These reports are listed in appendix I. We analyzed Bureau 
documents and data and interviewed key Bureau officials regarding the 
2004 and 2006 Census Tests. In that regard, we visited the Texas and 
South Dakota test sites; Queens, New York; and several counties in 
rural south-central Georgia, where an earlier field test was held in 
2004. During these visits we observed the address canvassing operation-
-where workers go door to door verifying addresses and updating maps as 
part of the Bureau's effort to build a complete and accurate address 
list, and we observed the nonresponse follow-up operation--where 
enumerators collect information from those households that do not 
return their initial questionnaire. We conducted our work in accordance 
with generally accepted government auditing standards. 

The Bureau's $11.3 Billion Cost Estimate for 2010 Census Lacks Timely 
and Complete Data: 

The Bureau's $11.3 billion life-cycle cost estimate for the 2010 Census 
lacks timely and complete supporting data. The supporting data of the 
estimate is not timely because it does not contain the most current 
information from testing and evaluation. Also, the supporting data of 
the estimate is not complete because it does not provide sufficient 
information on the how changing assumptions could affect cost. 

Cost for Each Decennial Census Continues to Significantly Increase: 

In January 2004, we reported that the Bureau's cost projections for the 
2010 decennial census continue an escalating trend.[Footnote 3] As 
noted above, the Bureau now estimates the 2010 Census will cost $11.3 
billion, making it the most expensive in history, even after adjusting 
for inflation. Although some cost growth can be expected, in part 
because the number of housing units--and hence the Bureau's workload-- 
has become larger, the cost growth has far exceeded the increase in the 
number of housing units. The Bureau estimates that the number of 
housing units for the 2010 Census will increase by 10 percent over 2000 
Census levels. At the same time, as shown in figure 1, the average cost 
per housing unit for 2010 is expected to increase by approximately 29 
percent from 2000 levels (from $56 per housing unit to $72 per housing 
unit in 2000 inflation-adjusted dollars).[Footnote 4] 

Figure 1: Decennial Census Average Cost per Housing Unit (Fiscal Year 
2000 Inflation-Adjusted Dollars): 

[See PDF for image] 

[End of figure] 

The risk exists that the actual, final cost of the census could be 
considerably higher. Indeed, the Bureau's initial cost projections for 
previous censuses proved to be too low because of such factors as 
unforeseen operational problems or changes to the fundamental design. 
For example, the Bureau estimated that the 2000 Census would cost 
around $4 billion if sampling was used, and a traditional census 
without sampling would cost around $5 billion. However, the final price 
tag for the 2000 Census (without sampling) was over $6.5 billion, a 30 
percent increase in cost. Today's climate of large federal deficits and 
other fiscal challenges requires holding the decennial's costs as low 
as possible, while promoting an accurate, timely census. 

2010 Cost Estimate Lacks Timely and Complete Information: 

Despite a history of cost increases, the Bureau's most recent cost 
estimate is not based on timely and complete information. Table 1 shows 
the Bureau's latest revised estimate that was released in September 
2005. Based on this table, the bulk of the funds will be spent between 
fiscal years 2007 through 2013. 

Table 1: Bureau's Revised September 2005 Estimate of Life-cycle Costs 
for the 2010 Decennial Census Program (in millions of dollars, 

Program component: American Community Survey; 
FY 2001: $23.6; 
FY 2002: $29.0; 
FY 2003: $56.8; 
FY 2004: $64.1; 
FY 2005: $144.1; 
FY 2006: budget request: $169.9; 
Subtotal: FY01-06: $487.5; 
FY 2007-: FY 2013: (est.) $1,219.8; 
Total: (est.) $1,707.3. 

Program component: MAF/TIGER Enhancements Program; 
FY 2001: $0; 
FY 2002: $15.0; 
FY 2003: $47.0; 
FY 2004: $82.4; 
FY 2005: $81.2; 
FY 2006: budget request: $79.8; 
Subtotal: FY01-06: $305.4; 
FY 2007-: FY 2013: (est.) $228.9; 
Total: (est.) $534.3. 

Program component: Short Form 2010 Census; 
FY 2001: $0; 
FY 2002: $21.0; 
FY 2003: $41.6; 
FY 2004: $106.0; 
FY 2005: $163.0; 
FY 2006: budget request: $214.5; 
Subtotal: FY01-06: $546.1; 
FY 2007-: FY 2013: (est.) $8,466.8; 
Total: (est.) $9,012.9. 

Program component: Total; 
FY 2001: $23.6; 
FY 2002: $65.0; 
FY 2003: $145.4; 
FY 2004: $252.5; 
FY 2005: $388.3; 
FY 2006: budget request: $464.3; 
Subtotal: FY01-06: 1,339.0; 
FY 2007-: FY 2013: (est.) $9,915.5; 
Total: (est.) $11,254.6. 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 

Note: These figures have not been audited by GAO. 

[End of table] 

As we stated in our January 2004 report[Footnote 5], in June 2001, the 
Bureau derived its 2010 cost estimate by using the actual cost of the 
2000 Census combined with assumptions about cost drivers, such as (1) 
staffing needs, (2) enumerator productivity, (3) pay rates for census 
workers, (4) the nonresponse rate for mailing back the 
questionnaires[Footnote 6], and (5) inflation. However, the most recent 
life-cycle cost estimate[Footnote 7] does not incorporate current 
information about those 2001 assumptions. One key assumption, that has 
not been updated pertains to the use of a new technology--specifically, 
new hand-held, GPS-enabled mobile computing devices (MCDs)--that would 
be important to the success of the 2010 census by automating and 
streamlining address canvassing, nonresponse follow-up, coverage 
measurement, and payroll operations. The Bureau anticipated that the 
use of MCDs would facilitate reductions in administrative and support 
costs in the Bureau's field offices, including a 50 percent reduction 
in clerical and administrative local census office staff costs and a 50 
percent reduction in space at each local census office. However, the 
Bureau's existing assumptions about the use and reliability of the MCD 
were not updated to reflect information from the 2004 test, which 
showed that assumptions about staffing and space associated with the 
new technology had changed since the June 2001 estimate. The Bureau's 
evaluations about those test results indicate that more help desk staff 
at the local census office were needed to support the use of the MCD, 
and additional storage space was needed for the devices. However, the 
Bureau did not use this information when revising its cost estimate in 
2005 because, according to Bureau officials, they conduct field tests 
for operational purposes only--not to inform the cost estimates. In our 
view, revising cost estimates on the most recent information--including 
test results that are pertinent to cost assumptions--can assist the 
Bureau and external decision makers to oversee costs and make necessary 
resource allocations to help ensure a successful, cost-effective, 

The Bureau's cost estimate lacked complete information, such as a 
sensitivity analysis regarding assumptions that could affect cost 
drivers. OMB Circular A-94 provides guidelines for cost-benefit 
analysis of federal programs and recommends that agencies develop a 
sensitivity analysis for major projects with significant uncertainty, 
like the decennial census. The circular provides a method for 
determining how sensitive outcomes are to changes in assumptions. In 
January 2004, we reported that the Bureau could provide more robust 
information on the likelihood that the values the Bureau assigned to 
key cost drivers could differ from those initially assumed and be 
timelier--previously the life-cycle cost estimate had been provided at 
2-year intervals.[Footnote 8] The Bureau's latest life-cycle cost 
document does not contain a sensitivity analysis on assumptions that 
impact cost; it did, however, indicate that the life-cycle cost would 
be updated annually. 

Having transparent information about cost estimates is especially 
important because decennial costs are sensitive to many key 
assumptions. In fact, for the 2000 Census, the Bureau's supplemental 
funding request for $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2000 primarily involved 
changes in assumptions related to increased workload, reduced employee 
productivity, and increased advertising. Given the cost of the census 
in an era of serious national fiscal challenges, it would be beneficial 
for the Bureau and Congress to have sensitivity information about the 
likelihood--high, medium, or low--that certain assumptions would drive 
costs. By providing this information, the Bureau would better enable 
Congress to consider funding levels in this uncertain environment. 

Our January 2004 report also highlighted the challenge that the Bureau 
would have in containing the cost of the 2010 Census. To increase the 
transparency of the census' life-cycle costs for Congress, we 
recommended that Office of Management and Budget (OMB) establish 
triggers that would signal when the annual 2010 Census costs and/or 
life-cycle 2010 Census costs exceeded some predetermined amount. We 
also recommended, among other things, that OMB ensure the Bureau 
analyzes the sensitivity of the cost figures to specific assumptions. 
However, OMB disagreed with our recommendation, because it said it 
already has internal procedures within its budget reviews to monitor 
2010 Census costs. OMB shared our view that the costs and risks 
associated with the 2010 Census must be carefully monitored and 
evaluated throughout the decade. OMB also agreed that it is essential 
to understand the key cost drivers and said that it is working with the 
Bureau to ensure that the Bureau develops high-quality, transparent 
life-cycle cost estimates. 

In addition, we recommended in our 2004 report that the Bureau develop 
a comprehensive project plan that would be updated as needed to (1) 
include milestones for completing key activities; (2) itemize the 
estimated cost of each component; (3) articulate a clear system of 
coordination among project components; and (4) translate key goals into 
measurable, operational terms to provide meaningful guidance for 
planning and measuring progress. Some, but not all, of this information 
is available in various documents, and to be useful, it would need to 
be pieced together. As a result, we recommended that the Bureau combine 
this information into a single, comprehensive document. The Bureau 
disagreed with our recommendation, although it said it would develop 
such a plan nonetheless and provide it to GAO, Congress, and other 
stakeholders. The Bureau has not yet issued such a document. 

Bureau Has Taken Steps to Reduce Nonresponse Follow-up Costs, But 
Challenges with Technology Remain: 

Since 2000, the Bureau has reengineered the decennial census and has 
begun to implement new initiatives. These include (1) using a short- 
form-only census questionnaire; (2) automating field operations; and 
(3) using a targeted second mailing to households that fail to respond 
to the initial census questionnaire, instead of sending an enumerator 
to visit houses that have not responded. These initiatives could reduce 
the workload and cost of nonresponse follow-up. While these initiatives 
show promise, the Bureau will need to address technological challenges 
with the MCD that will be used to collect data for nonresponse follow- 

The Bureau is finding it increasingly difficult to locate people and 
get them counted in the census. As in previous censuses, the major cost 
for the 2010 Census is what the Bureau calls "field data collection and 
support systems," accounting for over half of the life-cycle costs of 
the decennial census. 

First, the Bureau plans to contain the cost of nonresponse follow-up by 
increasing mail response through a short-form-only census. The overall 
mail response rate has been declining steadily since 1970. In the 1980 
Census, the mail response rate was 75 percent, 3 percentage points 
lower than it was in the 1970 Census. In the 1990 census, the mail 
response rate dropped to 65 percent and, in 2000, appeared to be 
leveling off at about 64 percent. Contributing to this decline is the 
public's unwillingness to complete the long form. Specifically, the 
response rates in 1990 and 2000 to the short form have been higher than 
the response rate to the long form. Bureau data suggest a 1 percent 
increase in the mail response rate would result from conducting a short-
form-only census. 

Secondly, by using the MCD, the Bureau plans to automate field data 
collection to contain the cost of nonresponse follow-up. The MCD allows 
the Bureau to automate operations and eliminate the need to print 
millions of paper questionnaires and maps used by census workers to 
conduct address canvassing and nonresponse follow-up, as well as 
managing field staff's payroll. As stated above, the benefits of using 
the MCD have been tested in the 2004 and 2006 tests. For example, 
during the 2004 Census Test, the MCD allowed the Bureau to successfully 
remove over 7,000 late mail returns from enumerators' assignments, 
reducing the total nonresponse follow-up workload by nearly 6 percent. 
The ability to remove late mail returns from the Bureau's nonresponse 
follow-up workload reduces costs, because census workers no longer need 
to make expensive follow-up visits to households that return their 
questionnaire late, after the mail-back deadline. If the Bureau had 
possessed this capability during the 2000 Census, it could have 
eliminated the need to visit nearly 773,000 late-responding households 
and saved an estimated $22 million (based on our estimate that a 1 
percentage point increase in workload could add at least $34 million in 
direct salary, benefits, and travel costs to the price tag of 
nonresponse follow-up[Footnote 9]). Moreover, operations that 
traditionally had to be done in sequence, such as nonresponse follow-up 
and then verifying the housing unit status for addresses marked vacant, 
can now be performed simultaneously by using the MCD, which may shorten 
the time needed for local census offices to stay open. 

However, the Bureau's ability to collect and transmit data using the 
MCD is not known and, at this point, constitutes a risk to the cost- 
effective implementation of the 2010 Census. During the 2004 test of 
nonresponse follow-up and the 2006 test of address canvassing, the MCDs 
experienced significant reliability problems. 

During the 2004 Census Test, the MCDs experienced transmission 
problems, memory overloads, and difficulties with a mapping feature-- 
all of which added inefficiencies to the nonresponse follow-up 
operation.[Footnote 10] During the 2006 Census Test, for address 
canvassing, the device was slow to pull up and exit address registers, 
accept the data entered by the census workers, and link map locations 
to addresses for multiunit structures. Furthermore, the MCDs would 
sometimes lockup, requiring workers to reboot them. 

Census workers also found it difficult to transmit an address and map 
location that were identified for deletion. Because the Bureau could 
not fix this problem, workers returned to the local census office so 
technicians could address the problem. The MCD's global positioning 
system (GPS) receiver, a satellite-based navigational system to help 
workers locate street addresses and collect coordinates for each 
structure in their assignment area, was also unreliable. Some workers 
had trouble receiving signals, and when a signal was available, the 
receiver was slow to find assignment areas and correct map locations, 
according to Bureau officials. The Bureau extended the operation 10 
days and still was unable to complete the job, leaving census blocks in 
Austin, Texas and on the Cheyenne River Reservation, South Dakota, 

The Bureau has acknowledged that the MCD's performance is an issue but 
believes it will be addressed through a contract awarded on March 30, 
2006, to develop a new MCD. However, the new MCD will not be tested 
until the 2008 Dress Rehearsal, and if problems do emerge, little time 
will be left to develop, test, and incorporate refinements. Given that, 
it will be important that the Bureau have a risk mitigation plan in 
place to help ensure the successful testing of the MCD at the Dress 
Rehearsal. In our May 2006 report, we highlighted the tight time frames 
to develop the MCD and recommended that systems being developed or 
provided by contractors for the 2010 Census--including the MCD--be 
fully functional and ready to be assessed as part of the 2008 Dress 
Rehearsal.[Footnote 11] The Department of Commerce, the Census Bureau's 
parent agency, noted in its comments on our draft report that the 
Bureau provided competitors for the contract with information about the 
design, requirements, and specification for the 2006 test in the 
request for proposals. Commerce also noted that the Bureau would share 
preliminary results from the 2006 test with the firm that was awarded 
the contract, upon the availability of those results. The Bureau, 
however, did not specify when preliminary results would be available. 
However, if after the 2008 Dress Rehearsal the MCD is found not to be 
reliable, the Bureau could be faced with a remote but daunting 
possibility of having to revert to the costly, paper-based census used 
in 2000. 

Finally, a targeted second mailing to households that fail to respond 
to the initial census questionnaire could reduce the workload and cost 
of nonresponse follow-up. According to Bureau studies, sending a second 
questionnaire could yield a gain in overall response of 7 to 10 percent 
from non-responding households. In reports, we have highlighted how a 
second mailing could boost the mail response rate by several percentage 
points, which in turn would result in considerable savings by reducing 
the number of costly personal visits enumerators would need to make to 
non-responding households. The Bureau has never before included this 
operation as part of a decennial census and over the decade has been 
testing its feasibility. The targeted second mailing is a part of the 
2006 test, the results of which will allow the Bureau to identify and 
resolve any operational issues; to demonstrate a more refined plan as 
part of the 2008 Dress Rehearsal; and, ultimately, to increase the 
likelihood that the second mailing will produce the desired cost 
savings and other benefits in 2010. 

Bureau Lacks Risk Mitigation Plans for Certain Challenges: 

Recent work that we have conducted has identified several challenges 
that, if not properly managed, could increase the cost of the 2010 
Census. As the Bureau moves from testing to demonstrating the design in 
the Dress Rehearsal, it will be important for the Bureau to have risk 
mitigation plans in place to reduce the severity of challenges to a 
cost-effective census. These challenges include (1) overseeing 
contractors responsible for conducting key census-taking operations, 
(2) successfully updating address and map files, and (3) assessing the 
resources that will be needed to update the address files and maps for 
areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

Increased Reliance on Contractor Support for the 2010 Census Introduces 

The Bureau is relying extensively on contractors to supply mission- 
critical functions and technologies for the 2010 Census. The Bureau 
estimates that they will spend $1.9 billion, or nearly 17 percent, of 
the Bureau's overall decennial costs to award seven major contracts for 
the 2010 Census. To date, the Bureau has awarded three of its seven 
major contracts. These three contracts support (1) MAF/TIGER 
modernization; (2) the development and operation of the Decennial 
Response and Integration System (DRIS)--a system planned to integrate 
paper, Internet, and telephone responses; and (3) the Field Data 
Collection Automation (FDCA) program--a system designed to provide 
field staff with the equipment and infrastructure needed to collect 
census data. 

Contractors can help the Bureau address the challenges it faces as it 
plans for and implements the 2010 Census, especially as it becomes 
increasingly difficult for the Bureau to count the nation's population 
with its in-house staff and capabilities. The contractors that the 
Bureau relied on to perform major decennial activities during Census 
2000 generally performed well.[Footnote 12] However, increased reliance 
on contractors entails certain management challenges, including the 
oversight of contractors to ensure that they meet the Bureau's needs in 
an effective, economical, and timely manner. For example, according to 
the Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General, the Bureau did 
not have sufficient program management staff to efficiently acquire 
systems and manage complex, high-dollar contracts during Census 
2000.[Footnote 13] As a result, the cost of the Bureau's data capture 
system increased from $49 million to $238 million by the end of that 

As we noted in our May 2006 report, the Bureau has not yet awarded four 
other major contracts for the 2010 Census, but has already pushed back 
the award dates of two of the remaining contracts because of changes in 
its acquisition approach. The Bureau's tight schedule for systems 
development and testing as well as the interdependence of decennial 
systems could affect its ability to develop fully functional and 
sufficiently mature systems that can be demonstrated in concert with 
other operations during the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. We previously 
reported that during the 1998 Dress Rehearsal for the 2000 Census, a 
number of new features were not test-ready; as a result, the Bureau 
said it could not fully evaluate them with any degree of assurance as 
to how they would affect the census.[Footnote 14] These late design 
changes and untested systems resulted in additional costs to the 

Closely monitoring major contracts continues to be important. In March 
2006, we testified that while project offices responsible for the DRIS 
and FDCA contracts had carried out initial acquisition management 
activities, neither office had the full skill sets needed to 
effectively manage the acquisitions.[Footnote 15] For DRIS, the 
Bureau's project office had established baseline requirements, but the 
Bureau had not validated the requirements and had not implemented a 
process for managing them. Also, the project office had identified the 
project's risks but had not written mitigation plans or established 
milestones for completing key risk mitigation activities. As for FDCA, 
the Bureau again had specified baseline requirements but had not 
validated them. While, the project office had begun to oversee the 
contractor's performance, it had not determined which performance 
measures it would use, and the office had not implemented a risk 
management process. Until these basic management activities are 
implemented, both systems could face increased risks of cost overruns, 
schedule delays and performance shortfalls. We have made 
recommendations addressing those issues, such as developing mitigation 
plans with milestones for key activities and regularly briefing senior 
managers. The Bureau has agreed to complete these activities as soon as 

As part of its effort to allow respondents to use the Internet during 
the decennial census, the Bureau proposed to develop the use of the 
Internet under the DRIS contract. However, in May 2006, Bureau 
officials informed us that the Internet response option was no longer a 
contract requirement and that they are uncertain whether Internet 
response would be an option for the 2010 Census. The removal of the 
Internet from the DRIS contract is an unexpected change, because just 3 
months earlier in our March 2006 testimony,[Footnote 16] we reported 
that the DRIS contract was expected to process Internet responses for 
the 2010 Census. 

High-level Bureau officials explained that they made the decision to 
remove the Internet from the contract partly because of the potential 
risks associated with computer security attacks. In addition, according 
to a Bureau official, the Bureau's testing to date showed nothing to 
indicate that offering an Internet response option would improve 
overall response rates or save any money. According to Bureau 
officials, if the Internet response option is included in the design, 
it will be developed in-house by Bureau staff. Bureau officials 
emphasized that they only have one chance every 10 years to collect 
this information; moreover, any public perception of an unsecured 
Internet Web site could result in residents not responding to the 
census, and in the long term could cost more than if the Internet had 
not been used. It should be noted that there are security techniques to 
address Internet attacks, and other federal agencies use the Internet 
to successfully meet many missions. According to a Bureau official, the 
Bureau believes it made a sound business decision by removing the 
Internet from the DRIS contract requirements. Further, the official 
told us that the Bureau did not develop a formal business case document 
on this decision. 

Address and Mapping Challenges Pose a Risk to a Cost-Effective Census: 

To contain decennial costs, long-standing and emerging issues related 
to the Bureau's address lists and maps need to be addressed. A complete 
and accurate address list is the cornerstone of a successful census 
because it identifies all households that are to receive a census 
questionnaire and serves as the control mechanism for following up with 
households that fail to respond. Although the Bureau went to great 
lengths to build a complete and accurate MAF for the 2000 Census, of 
the 116 million housing units contained in the database, the Bureau 
estimates it incorrectly included 2.3 million housing units and missed 
another 2.7 million housing units. In light of these and other 
problems, the Bureau concluded that enhancements to MAF/TIGER were 
necessary to make census data more complete and accurate. 

The Bureau has conducted research and testing to help resolve each of 
the problems experienced in the 2000 Census, including addresses that 
were duplicated, missed, deleted, and incorrectly located on a map (a 
problem known as "geocoding error"). For example, the Bureau is 
researching ways to capture missed addresses for housing units that 
were hard to find--often associated with apartments in small multiunit 
structures. However, some deadlines for completing research are not 
firm, while other deadlines that have been set continue to slip. As a 
result, it is not known whether the research and evaluation efforts 
underway will be completed in sufficient time to allow the Bureau to 
develop new methodologies and procedures for improving the MAF by June 
2007--the Bureau's announced deadline for determining the baseline for 
all program requirements. 

In addition, one major research effort using software to identify 
duplicate addresses (an estimated 1.4 million duplicate addresses were 
removed during the 2000 Census) did not work and will not be used in 
2010. As a result, duplicate addresses may still be a problem for the 
2010 MAF, and if not detected, can result in increased cost when 
nonresponse enumerators attempt to collect data from a duplicate 
address incorrectly listed in the MAF. 

New issues surrounding the schedule of address activities have emerged. 
One such issue revolves around the planning and development of the 2010 
Census amid tight and overlapping schedules for updating addresses and 
map files. For example, Bureau officials estimate that TIGER maps for 
600 to 700 counties of 3,232 counties in the United States will not be 
updated in time to be part of local update of census address (LUCA)-- 
the Bureau's program to give local, state, and tribal government 
officials the opportunity to review the address lists and maps and 
suggest corrections.[Footnote 17] LUCA participation is important 
because local knowledge contributes to a more complete and accurate 
address file. Not having the most current TIGER maps could affect the 
quality of a local government's review and could potentially increase 
the cost of conducting the census. For example, to the extent LUCA 
participants are not able to use the maps to identify duplicate and 
nonexistent addresses, and if subsequent address operations also fail 
to identify those same addresses, then nonresponse follow-up 
enumerators would make unnecessary and costly attempts to locate these 
incorrectly included addresses. 

Bureau Does Not Have a Plan to Assess Resources Needed to Update 
Address and Map Files in Areas Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: 

The Bureau does not have a plan to assess additional resources that may 
be needed to update the address and map file for areas affected by 
hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The task of updating Census address files 
to reflect the changes caused by the hurricanes will be formidable and 
possibly costly, as much has changed to the landscape since the 2000 
Census. On August 29, 2005, hurricane Katrina devastated the coastal 
communities of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. A few weeks later, 
hurricane Rita hit the border areas of Texas and Louisiana. Damage was 
widespread. For example, the Red Cross estimated that nearly 525,000 
people were displaced as a result of hurricane Katrina and 
approximately 90,000 square miles were affected. In some places, entire 
communities were obliterated. Homes were declared uninhabitable, and 
streets, bridges, and other landmarks were destroyed. 

For the 2010 Census, locating housing units and the people who reside 
in them will be critical to accurate population counts of places hit by 
the hurricanes, especially since it is estimated that hundreds of 
thousands of people have--either temporarily or permanently--migrated 
to other areas of the country. The Bureau anticipates that by 2009, 
residents will have decided whether to return to the region. However, 
Bureau officials have not provided information regarding the basis of 
this conclusion. Given the magnitude of the area, population, and 
infrastructure affected, it would be prudent for the Bureau to begin 
assessing whether new procedures will be necessary, determining whether 
additional resources may be needed, and identifying whether local 
partners will be available to assist the Bureau in its effort to update 
address and map data, as well as other census-taking activities. 
Without having done a resource analysis, the Bureau remains uncertain 
about whether additional funds will be needed to help locate and count 
residents affected by the hurricanes. 

In summary, the 2010 Census is an expensive but vitally important 
undertaking, the success of which is needed to meet the information 
requirements of policymakers at all levels of government, as well as 
business interests, and academic researchers. The Bureau responded to 
concerns about the accuracy, completeness, and cost-effectiveness of 
the 2000 Census by reengineering the heretofore paper-based processes 
used in all previous censuses. 

At the same time, the projected life-cycle cost of $11.3 billion makes 
the next decennial census the most expensive in our history, and many 
factors can cause the 2010 Census to be more expensive. It is important 
to consider that some factors that may increase the costs of the 
census--such as counting more people than ever who do not speak English 
or who live in alternative, hard-to-find housing--are inherent in the 
characteristics of the population that needs to be counted. Largely, 
demographically related cost factors will continue to exist, regardless 
of actions taken by the Bureau, and must be treated as givens by Bureau 
planners. Still, other factors that can cause cost increases can and 
should be mitigated. While needed, the reengineering introduced by the 
Bureau presents new challenges and increased risks. The Bureau needs to 
ensure that its new MCDs work as designed, and that contractors perform 
according to requirements, on schedule, and at cost. Moreover, the 
Bureau still needs to fully resolve preexisting issues related to the 
accuracy and completeness of the address list. 

Overall, we have long recognized that redesigning massive enterprises 
entail risks and uncertainties. Such risks and uncertainties need to be 
managed through the use of adequate planning and risk management by 
Bureau management. Such tools also serve the oversight requirements of 
external stakeholders--most notably Congress, which is being asked to 
authorize and appropriate more funds than ever to pay for the census. 

In January 2004, recognizing the cost escalation risks of the 2010 
Census, we concluded that the Bureau's plans for 2010 lacked the needed 
budgetary supporting detail, supporting analysis, and other 
information, making it difficult for Congress and us to oversee the 
Bureau's operations and assess the feasibility of the Bureau's design 
and the extent to which it would lead to greater cost-effectiveness. 
While the Bureau has made progress in planning and designing the 2010 
Census, the Bureau will need to continue to take steps to manage and 
mitigate risks for a comprehensive, accurate, and cost-effective 
population count in 2010. 

That concludes my statement, Mr. Chairman. I would be pleased to 
respond to any questions you or other members of the Subcommittee may 

Contacts and Acknowledgements: 

For questions regarding this testimony, please contact Brenda S. 
Farrell, on (202) 512-6806, or by email at Individuals 
making contributions to this testimony include Betty Clark, Robert 
Goldenkoff, Ernie Hazera, Shirley Hwang, Krista Loose, Lisa Pearson, 
Scott Purdy, Cynthia Scott, and Tim Wexler. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Related Products by GAO: 

GAO Products: 

2010 Census: Census Bureau Generally Follows Selected Leading 
Acquisition Planning Practices, but Continued Management Attentions Is 
Needed to Help Ensure Success. GAO-06-277. Washington, D.C.: May 18, 

Census Bureau: Important Activities for Improving Management of Key 
2010 Decennial Acquisitions Remain to Be Done. GAO-06-444T. Washington, 
D.C.: March 1, 2006. 

2010 Census: Planning and Testing Activities Are Making Progress. GAO- 
06-465T. Washington D.C.: March 1, 2006. 

Information Technology Management: Census Bureau Has Implemented Many 
Key Practices, but Additional Actions Are Needed. GAO-05-661. 
Washington, D.C.: June 16, 2005. 

2010 Census: Basic Design Has Potential, but Remaining Challenges Need 
Prompt Resolution. GAO-05-09. Washington, D.C.: January 12, 2005. 

Data Quality: Census Bureau Needs to Accelerate Efforts to Develop and 
Implement Data Quality Review Standards. GAO-05-86. Washington, D.C.: 
November 17, 2004. 

Census 2000: Design Choices Contributed to Inaccuracies in Coverage 
Evaluation Estimates. GAO-05-71. Washington, D.C.: November 12, 2004. 

American Community Survey: Key Unresolved Issues. GAO-05-82. 
Washington, D.C.: October 8, 2004. 

2010 Census: Counting Americans Overseas as Part of the Decennial 
Census Would Not Be Cost-Effective. GAO-04-898. Washington, D.C.: 
August 19, 2004. 

2010 Census: Overseas Enumeration Test Raises Need for Clear Policy 
Direction. GAO-04-470.Washington, D.C.: May 21, 2004. 

2010 Census: Cost and Design Issues Need to Be Addressed Soon. GAO-04- 
37. Washington, D.C.: January 15, 2004. 

Decennial Census: Lessons Learned for Locating and Counting Migrant and 
Seasonal Farm Workers. GAO-03-605. Washington, D.C.: July 3, 2003. 

Decennial Census: Methods for Collecting and Reporting Hispanic 
Subgroup Data Need Refinement. GAO-03-228. Washington, D.C.: January 
17, 2003. 

Decennial Census: Methods for Collecting and Reporting Data on the 
Homeless and Others Without Conventional Housing Need Refinement. GAO- 
03-227. Washington, D.C.: January 17, 2003. 

2000 Census: Lessons Learned for Planning a More Cost-Effective 2010 
Census. GAO-03-40. Washington, D.C.: October 31, 2002. 

The American Community Survey: Accuracy and Timeliness Issues. GAO-02- 
956R. Washington, D.C.: September 30, 2002. 


[1] The TIGER database is a mapping system that identifies all visible 
geographic features, such as type and location of streets, housing 
units, rivers, and railroads. To link TIGER to the master address file 
(MAF), the Bureau assigns every housing unit in the MAF to a specific 
location in the TIGER, a process called "geocoding." TIGER is a 
registered trademark of the U.S. Census Bureau. 

[2] ACS is intended to be a monthly survey of 250,000 households that, 
under the Bureau's plans, will replace the long-form census 

[3] GAO, 2010 Census: Cost and Design Issues Need to Be Addressed Soon, 
GAO-04-37 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 15, 2004). 

[4] These figures include the 10-year costs for ACS replacement for the 
census long form and the costs of MAF/TIGER. 

[5] GAO-04-37. 

[6] Lower mail-back response rates increase costs by necessitating 
costly follow-up visits by enumerators to nonresponding households and/ 
or the mailing of a follow-up questionnaire. 

[7] U.S. Census Bureau, Census Bureau Estimated Life Cycle Costs for 
Reengineering the 2010 Decennial Census Program (Washington, D.C.: 
Sept. 2005). 

[8] GAO-04-37. 

[9] GAO, 2000 Census: Contingency Planning Needed to Address Risks That 
Pose a Threat to a Successful Census, GAO/GGD-00-06 (Washington, D.C.: 
Dec. 14, 1999). 

[10] GAO, 2010 Census: Basic Design Has Potential, but Remaining 
Challenges Need Prompt Resolution, GAO-05-9, (Washington, D.C.: January 
12, 2005). 

[11] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau Generally Follows Selected Leading 
Acquisition Planning Practices, but Continued Management Attention Is 
Needed to Help Ensure Success, GAO-06-277 (Washington, D.C.: May 18, 

[12] For example, the data capture system exceeded its performance 
goals for accuracy, and the advertising campaign blanketed the country 
with more than 250 advertisements in 17 languages, which helped boost 
the response rate higher than the Bureau had expected. 

[13] Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General, Improving Our 
Measure of America: What Census 2000 Can Teach Us in Planning for 2010, 
OIG-14431 (Washington, D.C.: Spring 2002). 

[14] GAO-05-9. 

[15] GAO, Census Bureau: Important Activities for Improving Management 
of Key 2010 Decennial Acquisitions Remain to be Done, GAO-06-444T , 
(Washington, D.C.: Mar. 1, 2006). 

[16] GAO-06-444T. 

[17] In the Census Address List Improvement Act (Pub. L. No. 103-430, 
Oct. 31, 1994), Congress required the Bureau to develop a local address 
review program giving local governments and tribal governments greater 
input into the Bureau's address list development process. 

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