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Before the Subcommittee on Information Policy, Census, and National 
Archives, Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, House of 

United States Government Accountability Office: 


For Release on Delivery Expected at 2:00 p.m. EDT: 

Tuesday, April 24, 2007: 

2010 Census: 

Design Shows Progress, but Managing Technology Acquisitions, Temporary 
Field Staff, and Gulf Region Enumeration Require Attention: 

Statement of Mathew J. Scirč: 
Director, Strategic Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-07-779T, testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Information Policy, Census, and National Archives, Committee on 
Oversight and Government Reform, House of Representatives 

Why GAO Did This Study: 

The decennial census is a Constitutionally-mandated activity that 
produces data used to apportion congressional seats, redraw 
congressional districts, and allocate billions of dollars in federal 
assistance. The Census Bureau (Bureau) estimates the 2010 Census will 
cost $11.3 billion, making it the most expensive in the nation’s 
history. This testimony discusses the Bureau's progress in preparing 
for the 2010 Census to (1) implement operations to increase the 
response rate and control costs; (2) use technology to increase 
productivity; (3) hire and train temporary staff; and (4) plan an 
accurate census in areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

The testimony is based on previously issued GAO reports and work 
nearing completion in which GAO observed recruiting, hiring, and 
training practices in the 2006 test, and visited localities that 
participated in the Local Update of Addresses Dress Rehearsal as well 
in the Gulf Coast region. 

What GAO Found: 

The Bureau has made progress towards implementing a re-engineered 
census design that holds promise for increasing the response rate, 
thereby controlling the cost of the census while promoting accurate 
results. The re-engineered design includes a short form only census 
designed to increase the response rate by about 1 percent and a 
targeted second mailing, which is expected to increase response by 
between 7 to 10 percent. Both of these initiatives are new, have been 
tested, and will be a part of the 2010 Census design. According to 
Bureau officials, a 1 percent increase in the response rate can save 
$75 million, making these initiatives critical to the new design. 

Uncertainty surrounds a keystone to the reengineered census, the mobile 
computing device (MCD). 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 census 
operations and to assist in managing payroll. The MCD, tested in the 
2004 and 2006 census tests, was found to be unreliable. While a 
contractor has developed a new version of the MCD, the device will not 
be field tested until next month, leaving little time to correct 
problems that might emerge during the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. 

Table: Timeline of Selected Key Decennial Events: 

Beginning and End Dates: Jan. 2007-Jan. 2010; 
Decennial activity: Local Update of Census Addresses (localities assist 
in updating address lists and maps). 

Beginning and End Dates: Feb. 2006-June 2009; 
Decennial activity: 2008 Dress Rehearsal (Bureau's rehearsal of all 
planned decennial operations). 

Beginning and End Dates: Jan. 2008; 
Decennial activity: Opening of 12 Regional Census Centers. 

Beginning and End Dates: Oct. 2008; 
Decennial activity: Opening of 455 Local Census Offices. 

Beginning and End Dates: Apr.-Sept. 2009; 
Decennial activity: Address Listing Activities (Bureau field staff 
validate address lists and maps). 

Beginning and End Dates: Apr. 1, 2010; 
Decennial activity: Census Day. 

Beginning and End Dates: Apr.-July 2010; 
Decennial activity: Nonresponse Follow-up (Field staff follow-up in 
person at housing units of nonresponding persons). 

Beginning and End Dates: Dec. 31, 2010; 
Decennial activity: Delivery of apportionment counts to the President. 

Beginning and End Dates: Mar. 31, 2011; 
Decennial activity: Complete delivery of redistricting data to states. 

Source: GAO summary of Census Bureau data. 

[End of table] 

The Bureau faces challenges in recruiting, hiring, and training an 
estimated 600,000 temporary employees. For example, opportunities exist 
for the Bureau to hone its recruiting efforts to identify individuals 
who would be more likely to be effective at census work and willing to 
work throughout an operation. Also, census workers indicated a need for 
additional training on reluctant respondents as well as location-
specific challenges they encounter. The Bureau must also be prepared to 
accurately count the population affected by hurricanes Katrina and 
Rita. The Bureau has contacted local officials in the Gulf Area and is 
developing a plan that includes workshops and special staffing 

What GAO Recommends: 

At this time, GAO is not making new recommendations, but past reports 
recommended steps for the Bureau to enhance the mobile computing 
devices and promote an accurate census in areas impacted by hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita. The Bureau generally agreed with these 
recommendations and has acted to implement some of them. 


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

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman, Mr. Turner, Members of the Subcommittee: 

Thank you for the opportunity to be here today to discuss the status of 
the Census Bureau's (Bureau) progress in preparing for the 2010 Census. 
Based on issued and ongoing work, my testimony today addresses the 
Bureau's efforts to prepare for the next decennial by (1) implementing 
operations designed to improve the completeness and accuracy of the 
census as well as to increase response rate and hence control costs, 
(2) using automation and technology to increase productivity, (3) 
recruiting, hiring, and training peak temporary staff of about 600,000 
in 2010 in a challenging environment, and (4) planning how to ensure an 
accurate population count in areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and 

As you know, Mr. Chairman, the census is a critical national effort 
mandated by the Constitution. Census data are used to apportion seats 
in the Congress, redraw congressional districts, allocate billions of 
dollars in federal assistance to state and local governments, and for 
numerous other public and private sector purposes. In addition, the 
census is a complicated undertaking and substantial investment, 
requiring careful planning, risk management, and oversight to ensure 
its ultimate success. The Bureau estimates the 2010 Census will cost 
$11.3 billion over its life-cycle, making it the most expensive census 
in our country's history, even after adjusting for inflation. Since the 
2000 Census, we have been examining how the Bureau is preparing for the 
2010 Census, including incorporating lessons learned from the 2000 
Census into its planning for the 2010 decennial. Given the importance 
of a successful enumeration, for the last 3 decennials, we have 
supported an approach to oversight that is timely, rigorous, 
constructive, and holds the Bureau accountable for results. 

Today's hearing is particularly timely. The Bureau is now conducting 
the 2008 Dress Rehearsal's Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) 
program, where local, state, and tribal governments are given the 
opportunity to review and suggest changes to Census Bureau address 
lists and maps. Beginning in early May 2007, the Bureau will deploy the 
hand-held mobile computing devices (MCDs)--a keystone to the 
reengineered Census--to verify address data as part of the address 
canvassing portion of the Dress Rehearsal. We plan to be on-hand to 
observe the functionality and usability of the MCDs at the dress 
rehearsal sites in North Carolina and California where the Bureau will 
conduct a dry run of the full enumeration planned for 2010. "Census 
Day" for this exercise is April 1, 2008. 

As we have testified in the past, the Bureau's ongoing reengineering of 
the decennial census--including changes in the survey design and 
greater use of technology--could have important benefits in improved 
efficiencies and cost-containment as well as the accuracy, quality, and 
consistency of data collected. But these changes, as well as 
intervening events, raise new risks that bear watching. Also, given the 
sheer size of census operations, refinements to recruiting, hiring, and 
training can have substantial results. 

In summary, our recent work on the reengineering of and preparations 
for the 2010 decennial have yielded a number of observations about 
actions the Bureau has taken to promote an accurate and cost-effective 

* The Bureau has taken steps to increase response rates through such 
measures as moving to a short form, and utilizing a second mailing. 

* The MCD version being deployed during the upcoming dress rehearsal 
will be used for the first time in the field--this is the prototype 
under contract for the 2010 Census--and if it does not function as 
expected or needed, little time will be left for the Bureau to take 
corrective action. Overall, the Bureau's greater reliance on contractor-
developed automation and technology for the 2010 Census call for 
greater focus on sound acquisition and management of these key 

* The Bureau's efforts to recruit, hire, and train a sufficient 
workforce to enumerate an increasingly hard-to-find and reluctant 
population in a more technology-dependent census presents a unique 
challenge for the Bureau to refine its recruiting practices and enhance 
its training. 

* The intervention of hurricanes Katrina and Rita have placed 
additional demands on the Bureau to prepare for enumerating a large 
population displaced by these devastating storms, in an environment in 
which local governments' capacities are constrained and physical 
infrastructure and services have not yet returned to normal. 

Given these complexities, our message remains that the risks associated 
with the decennial must be closely monitored, evaluated, and managed, 
with mitigation plans in place where appropriate, to help ensure that 
accurate results are delivered on time and within projected costs. 

My remarks today are based primarily on reports that we have issued 
from 2002 through July 2006 on the planning and development of the 2010 
Census, as well as the results of work nearing completion. (Please see 
app. I for a list of relevant reports.) For the 2004 field test, we 
visited Queens, New York, and several counties in rural south-central 
Georgia. We visited the Texas and South Dakota test sites during the 
2006 field test. During these visits we observed such operations as 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 non-response 
follow-up operation (NRFU)--where enumerators collect information from 
those households that do not return their initial questionnaire. We 
also observed key recruiting, hiring, and training activities during 
the 2006 test completed last summer. During the autumn of 2006, we 
observed preparations for and the conduct of the Local Update of Census 
Addresses (LUCA) phase of the 2008 Dress Rehearsal in sites located in 
North Carolina and California, and in January 2007 we visited areas in 
Louisiana, Mississippi, and Texas affected by hurricanes Katrina and 
Rita. We conducted our work in accordance with generally accepted 
government auditing standards. 


The decennial census is the nation's largest, most complex survey. In 
April 2009, address canvassing--a field operation for verifying and 
correcting addresses for all households and street features contained 
on decennial maps--will begin. One year later, the Bureau will mail 
census questionnaires to the majority of the population in anticipation 
of Census Day, April 1, 2010. Those households who do not respond will 
be contacted by field staff through the NRFU operation to determine the 
number of people living in the house on Census Day, among other 
information. In addition to address canvassing and NRFU, the Bureau 
conducts other operations, for example, to gather data from residents 
from group quarters, such as prisons or college dormitories. The Bureau 
also employs different enumeration methods in certain settings, such as 
remote Alaska enumeration, in which people living in inaccessible 
communities must be contacted in January 2010 in anticipation of the 
spring thaw which makes travel difficult, or update/enumerate, a data 
collection method involving personal interviews, used in communities 
where many housing units may not have typical house number-street name 
mailing addresses. Further, the efforts of state and local government 
are enlisted to obtain a more complete address file through the LUCA 

The census is also conducted against a backdrop of immutable deadlines, 
and the census's elaborate chain of interrelated pre-and post-Census 
Day activities is 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 mandated reporting requirements, census 
activities must occur at specific times and in the proper sequence. The 
table below shows some dates for selected, key decennial activities. 

Table 1: Timeline of Selected Key Decennial Events: 

Beginning and End Dates: Jan. 2007-Jan. 2010; 
Decennial activity: Local Update of Census Addresses (localities assist 
in updating address lists and maps). 

Beginning and End Dates: Feb. 2006-June 2009; 
Decennial activity: 2008 Dress Rehearsal (Bureau's rehearsal of all 
planned decennial operations). 

Beginning and End Dates: Jan. 2008; 
Decennial activity: Opening of 12 Regional Census Centers. 

Beginning and End Dates: Oct. 2008; 
Decennial activity: Opening of 455 Local Census Offices. 

Beginning and End Dates: Apr.-Sept. 2009; 
Decennial activity: Address Listing Activities (Bureau field staff 
validate address lists and maps). 

Beginning and End Dates: Apr. 1, 2010; 
Decennial activity: Census Day. 

Beginning and End Dates: Apr.-July 2010; 
Decennial activity: Nonresponse Follow-up (Field staff follow-up in 
person at housing units of nonresponding persons). 

Beginning and End Dates: Dec. 31, 2010; 
Decennial activity: Delivery of apportionment counts to the President. 

Beginning and End Dates: Mar. 31, 2011; 
Decennial activity: Complete delivery of redistricting data to states. 

Source: GAO summary of Census Bureau data. 

[End of table] 

The Bureau estimates that the 2010 Census will cost $11.3 billion over 
its life-cycle, making it the most expensive in the nation's history. 
While some cost growth is expected, partly because the number of 
housing units has increased, the estimated cost escalation has far 
exceeded the housing unit increase. The Bureau estimates that the 
number of housing units for the 2010 Census will increase by 10 percent 
over 2000 Census levels, but the average 2010 cost to enumerate a 
housing unit is expected to increase by about 29 percent from 2000 
levels (from $56 to $72) (see fig. 1). As the Bureau plans for 2010, 
maintaining cost effectiveness will be one of the single greatest 
challenges confronting the agency. 

Figure 1: Decennial Census Average Cost per Housing Unit (in Constant 
Fiscal Year 2000 Dollars): 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO analysis of U.S. Census Bureau figures. 

[End of figure] 

According to the Bureau, the increasing cost of the census is caused by 
various societal trends--such as increasing privacy concerns, more non- 
English speakers, and people residing in makeshift and other 
nontraditional living arrangements--making it harder to find people and 
get them to participate in the census. 

The Bureau Has Taken Steps to Increase Response Rates: 

The Bureau has reengineered the decennial census, including 
implementing new initiatives aimed at increasing the response rate. 
Furthermore, the Bureau also plans to begin to implement its outreach 
and communications campaign, an effort used in the 2000 Census that was 
designed to increase awareness and encourage individuals to respond to 
the census questionnaire. Increasing the decennial's response rate can 
result in significant savings because the Bureau can reduce the 
staffing and costs related to NRFU, as well as yield more complete and 
accurate data. According to the Bureau, for every one-percentage point 
increase in the response rate, the Bureau will be able to save $75 

The Bureau plans to increase response rate by several means, including 
conducting a short-form-only census. The Bureau is able to do this 
because in 1996 the Bureau began efforts to replace the decennial long 
form with the American Community Survey. Since 1970, the overall mail 
response rate to the decennial census has been declining steadily, in 
part, because of the burden of responding to the long form, which was 
sent to a sample of respondents. In the 1980 Census, the overall 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 but in 2000 appeared to be leveling off at about 64 percent. 
In the 2000 Census when comparing the short form to the long form the 
Bureau found the short form response rate of 66.4 percent was 12.5 
percentage points higher that the long form response rate of 53.9 
percent. While the difference between the long and short form response 
rates are significant, the Bureau in its initial assumption for the 
2010 Census predicted that conducting a short-form-only census will 
yield only a 1-percent increase in the overall mail response rate. 

A targeted second mailing to households that fail to respond to the 
initial census questionnaire can increase the ultimate response rate. 
According to Bureau studies, sending a second questionnaire could yield 
a gain in overall response of 7 to 10 percentage points from non- 
responding households, thus potentially saving the Bureau between $525 
million to $700 million dollars (given that every 1 percentage point 
increase in response may save $75 million). In reports, we have 
highlighted that a targeted second mailing could boost the mail 
response rate, which in turn would result in considerable savings by 
reducing the number of costly personal visits enumerators would need to 
make to nonresponding households.[Footnote 1] The Bureau has never 
before included this operation as part of a decennial census and over 
the decade has been testing its feasibility. A targeted second mailing 
was a part of 2006 test and boosted the response rate by 8.8 percent at 
the Austin, Texas test site. According to Bureau officials targeted 
second mailing will be a part of the 2010 Census design. 

For the 2010 Census the Bureau also intends to increase response rates 
by undertaking a public awareness campaign as it did in the previous 
census. In the 2000 Census that effort was comprised of two major 

* conducting the first-ever paid advertising campaign aimed at 
increasing the mail response rate, including the historically 
undercounted populations, and: 

* leveraging the value of local knowledge by building 140,000 
partnerships at every level including state, local , and tribal 
governments; community-based organizations; and the media and private- 
sector organizations to elicit public participation in the census. 

In 2001 we reported that for the 2000 Census, it appeared that 
encouraging people to respond to the census questionnaire was 
successful, in part due to the Bureau's partnership efforts.[Footnote 
2] For example, according to the Bureau, it achieved an initial mail 
response rate of about 64 percent, 3 percentage points higher that it 
had anticipated when planning for NRFU. This was a noteworthy 
accomplishment and, as a result, the Bureau had over 3 million fewer 
housing units to follow-up with than it had initially planned. 

The Bureau will soon begin its outreach and communication effort for 
2010. The Bureau plans to award the communications contract in August 
2007 and will begin hiring partnership specialists at headquarters 
starting in fiscal year 2008. 

The Bureau's Plans for Greater Use of Automation and Technology Demand 
Greater Risk Management: 

The MCD is a keystone to the reengineered census. It 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 NRFU, as well as assisting to manage field staff's 
payroll. The benefits of using the MCD were tested in the 2004 and 2006 
tests. According to the Bureau, 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 NRFU workload by 
nearly 6 percent. The ability to remove late mail returns from the 
Bureau's NRFU workload reduces costs, because census field workers no 
longer need to make expensive follow-up visits to households that 
return their questionnaire 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 
NRFU[Footnote 3]). 

However, the Bureau's ability to collect and transmit data using the 
MCD is not fully tested and, at this point, constitutes a risk to the 
cost-effective implementation of the 2010 Census. During the 2004 test 
of NRFU and the 2006 test of address canvassing, the MCDs experienced 
significant reliability problems. For example, 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 NRFU operation.[Footnote 4] Moreover, during the 2006 test, 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 

Bureau officials believe the MCD's performance problems will be 
addressed through a contract awarded on March 30, 2006, to develop a 
new MCD. A prototype of the MCD has been developed and delivered by the 
contractor for use in the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. However, operational 
testing of the MCD will not occur until May 2007, when address 
canvassing for the 2008 Dress Rehearsal occurs, and if problems do 
emerge, little time will be left to develop, test, and incorporate 
refinements. 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. We are currently reviewing the cost, schedule and 
performance status of the contract for the MCDs. 

We plan to visit the dress rehearsal sites to determine the 
functionality of the devices to collect and transmit data. If after the 
2008 Dress Rehearsal the MCD is found not to be reliable, the Bureau 
could be faced with the daunting possibility of having to revert to the 
costly, paper-based census used in 2000. 

Although the greater use of automation offers the prospect of greater 
efficiency and effectiveness, these actions also introduce new risks. 
The automation of key census processes involves an extensive reliance 
on contractors. Consequently, contract oversight and management becomes 
a key challenge to a successful census. As part of the Bureau's plans 
to increase the use of automation and technology for the 2010 Census, 
the Bureau estimates that it will spend about $ 3 billion on 
information technology (IT) investments. The Bureau will be undertaking 
several major acquisitions, including the Decennial Response 
Integration System (DRIS)--a system for integrating paper and telephone 
responses; the Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA) program--the 
systems and support equipment for field office data collection 
activities including the MCDs to be used by enumerators; the Data 
Access and Dissemination System (DADS II)--a system for tabulating and 
disseminating data from the decennial census and other Bureau surveys 
to the public; and the modernization of the Master Address File/ 
Topologically Integrated Geographic Encoding and Referencing (MAF/ 
TIGER) system, which provides the address list, maps, and other 
geographic support services for the decennial and other Bureau surveys, 
known as the MAF/TIGER Accuracy Improvement Project (MTAIP). Together 
these and other systems are to support collection, processing, and 
dissemination of census data. 

In March 2006, we testified on the Bureau's acquisition and management 
of two key information technology system acquisitions for the 2010 
Census--FDCA and the DRIS.[Footnote 5] We reported on the Bureau's 
progress in implementing acquisitions and management capabilities for 
these initiatives. To effectively manage major IT programs, 
organizations should use sound acquisition and management processes to 
minimize risk and thereby maximize chances for success. Such processes 
include project and acquisition planning, solicitation, requirement 
development and management, and risk management. We reported that while 
the project offices responsible for these two contracts have carried 
out initial acquisition management activities, neither office had the 
full set of capabilities they needed to effectively manage the 
acquisitions, including implementing a full risk management process. We 
also made recommendations for the Bureau to implement key activities 
needed to effectively manage acquisitions. For example, we recommended 
that the Bureau's project office for DRIS complete a project plan and 
obtain stakeholder concurrence before initiating additional development 
work and obtain validation, management, and customer approval of DRIS 
requirements. In response to our recommendation, the Bureau has 
finalized the project plan for DRIS and has obtained stakeholders' 
commitment. As a result, the DRIS project office will have the 
direction that it needs to successfully avoid unanticipated changes. 

We are reviewing the cost, schedule, and performance status for DRIS, 
FDCA, MTAIP, and DADS II to determine whether the Bureau is adequately 
managing risks associated with these key systems. Effective risk 
management includes identifying and analyzing risks, assigning 
resources, developing risk mitigation plans and milestones for key 
mitigation deliverables, briefing senior-level managers on high- 
priority risks, and tracking risks to closure and is an important 
project management discipline to ensure that key technologies are 
delivered on time, within budget, and with the promised functionality. 
This discipline is essentially important given the immovable decennial 
census deadline. We are scheduled to complete our work on that 
engagement by September 2007. 

The Bureau Can Improve Its Recruiting, Hiring, and Training Efforts: 

Prior to Census Day, Bureau field staff perform the address canvassing 
operation, during which they verify the addresses of all housing units. 
The Bureau estimates spending $350 million to hire about 74,000 field 
workers for the address canvassing operation. About 1 year later, the 
Bureau mails out questionnaires to about 130 million households 
nationwide. However, the Bureau expects that about 40 million 
households will not return the questionnaire. To collect information 
from those households, the Bureau hires temporary field staff--based 
out of local census offices--to visit each nonresponding household in 
its NRFU operation. The Bureau expects to spend over $2 billion to 
employ about 525,000 temporary field staff for that activity. As shown 
in fig. 2, in total the Bureau will recruit and test 3.8 million 
applicants for addressing canvassing and NRFU, hiring some 600,000 
people for the 2010 Census. 

Figure 2: The Bureau's Recruiting and Hiring Timeline for Temporary 
Field Staff During the 2010 Census: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO and U.S. Census Bureau. 

[End of figure] 

The Bureau Can Refine Its Approach to Recruiting and Hiring Temporary 
Field Staff: 

For the 2010 Census, the Bureau plans to use a similar approach to 
recruit and hire workers as it used during Census 2000. These 
strategies made the Bureau a more attractive employer to prospective 
candidates and helped provide a steady stream of applicants during 
Census 2000. Despite a tight labor market, the Bureau attracted about 
3.7 million qualified applicants and hired about half a million 
enumerators at peak. Some of the broad approaches from 2000 that the 
Bureau plans on implementing for the 2010 census include: 

* recruiting five times more applicants than the needed number of field 
workers to ensure a considerable depth in the applicant pool from which 
to hire; 

* "frontloading" or hiring twice the number of people needed to do the 
work in anticipation of high levels of turnover; 

* exercising the flexibility to raise pay rates for local census 
offices that were encountering recruiting difficulties; and: 

* launching a recruitment advertising campaign, which totaled over $2.3 
million for Census 2000. 

As in 2000, the Bureau faces the daunting tasks of meeting its 
recruiting and hiring goals. However, it also faces additional 
challenges, such as demographic shifts whereby the population is 
increasingly diverse and difficult to locate, and newer challenges, 
like the Bureau's use of handheld computers for data collection in the 
field. It does plan some improvements to how it recruits and hires its 
temporary workforce to carry out the 2010 Census. For example, the 
Bureau has conducted and incorporated information collected from 
employee debriefings that could improve its recruiting and hiring 
processes. Bureau officials believe this feedback would be helpful in 
evaluating and refining its hiring and recruiting processes and intend 
to incorporate some of that information for the 2008 Dress Rehearsal. 
However, it can do more to target its recruitment of field staff. 

The Bureau casts a wide net to recruit its temporary workforce to 
ensure it has a large enough applicant pool from which to hire. In 
commenting on a draft of this work, Commerce noted that the Bureau's 
priority is to reach out as broadly a possible to the diverse 
communities in the county to attract several million applicants. We 
recognize that when recruiting and hiring for hundreds of thousands of 
positions, the Bureau faces a challenge in assessing applicants' 
potential success or willingness to work. However, opportunities exist 
for the Bureau to hone its recruiting efforts to identify individuals 
who would be more likely to be effective at census work and willing to 
continue working throughout an operation. Along those same lines, the 
Bureau could also evaluate the factors associated with an applicant's 
success, willingness to work in an operation, and likelihood of 
attrition to refine its hiring. Despite Commerce's reservations about 
refining its current recruiting and hiring strategies, we believe that 
the Bureau could do more to understand what makes for a successful 
recruit and, by hiring such applicants, reduce operating costs. 

Another recruiting and hiring issue we identified in our completed work 
is related to how the crew leaders are selected. We found that the 
Bureau's tools for hiring crew leaders could better distinguish the 
skills needed for those positions. Crew leaders fill an important role 
in the Bureau's field activities because they supervise the work of 
crews of field workers; train field workers; and will be counted on to 
troubleshoot the MCDs. We found that despite the different skill 
requirements of crew leaders and other field staff--for example, while 
it was important for field staff working in the NRFU operation to have 
arithmetic and visual identification skills, crew leaders need those 
skills as well as additional skills, such as management, leadership, 
and creative thinking--the Bureau used the same set of hiring tools to 
hire individuals for crew leaders and other field positions during the 
2006 Census Test. In its review of the 2004 Census Test, the Department 
of Commerce Office of Inspector General OIG also reported that Bureau 
officials said that the applicants' the multiple-choice test does not 
capture the technical or supervisory skills needed by crew 
leaders.[Footnote 6] 

The Bureau hired a contractor to assess whether the tools used during 
the 2006 Census Test selected individuals with the skills necessary to 
conduct field work using MCDs;[Footnote 7] however, the Bureau has no 
current plans to make changes to its hiring process that would include 
differentiated hiring tools for crew leaders and other positions. 
Without hiring tools that distinguish between skills needed for the 
crew leader and other positions, the Bureau does not have assurances 
that it is selecting crew leaders that can best perform important 
duties like providing training, managing other field staff, and 
troubleshooting handheld computers. In commenting on our draft, 
Commerce indicated that the Bureau needs to evaluate its hiring tools. 
It is also working to identify and test what the appropriate skills are 
for the crew leader position. 

Finally, we found that the Bureau does not collect performance data 
needed to rehire former workers from prior or ongoing operations to 
whom it may give hiring priority. Officials say they try to exclude 
those terminated for cause (such terminations can result when workers 
have performance or conduct problems such as selling drugs or striking 
another worker). Bureau officials point to its internal systems, which, 
they say preclude the rehiring of employees who were terminated for 
cause. However, the OIG and field officials told us that poor 
performers may not always be terminated. Without better information on 
employee performance, the Bureau cannot ensure that the weakest 
performers are not rehired. Over the course of the 2006 Census Test, 
almost 15 percent of all field staff were rehired. If this percentage 
were to be rehired during the 2010 Census, the Bureau would not have 
performance data to meaningfully evaluate whether to rehire 
approximately 90,000 individuals. The Bureau believes that the pace of 
the decennial, particularly NRFU, is such that local census officials 
would not have enough time to consider past performance when making 
hiring decisions. However, we believe that the Bureau has enough time. 
For example, performance data could be collected during address 
canvassing to be used to assess workers for NRFU, nearly one-year 

Opportunities Exist for the Bureau to Improve Training for Field Staff: 

The Bureau has employed essentially the same approach to training since 
the 1970 Census. To conduct training, the Bureau solicits free or low- 
cost training spaces from local organizations, such as churches or 
libraries. Training classes typically include 15 to 20 students. Crew 
leaders usually train their crews, with the assistance of at least one 
crew leader assistant, using a verbatim training approach, whereby crew 
leaders read training scripts word-for-word over the course of several 
days. Similarly, the crew leaders were themselves trained by their 
supervisors in a "train-the-trainers" approach. The length of training 
varies by operation; for NRFU, training took almost 42 hours over the 
course of 6 days during the 2006 test. 

The Bureau and others, including us, have reported that the Bureau 
should consider alternate approaches to training delivery. Our review 
of the 2004 Census Test found that, as a result of the demographic and 
technological changes that have taken place since 1970, the Bureau 
might want to explore alternatives to its verbatim approach to 
training.[Footnote 8] Moreover, in 2004, the OIG suggested the Bureau 
explore the use of interactive training methods, as the Bureau does for 
other non-decennial surveys.[Footnote 9] For example, while many field 
staff we contacted during the 2006 test said their overall impression 
of training was generally positive, many added that videos or visuals 
would or might improve training. In addition, while the Bureau is 
providing some computer-based training on using the handheld computers 
in key operations, overall the Bureau has made limited changes to the 
approach it uses to deliver training and has not evaluated alternative 
approaches to providing training. It is notable that observations 
during the 2004 and 2006 tests showed that field staff may have missed 
important parts of training. Contractor employees saw students playing 
games on their MCDs during training for the 2006 test,[Footnote 10] and 
in 2004 the OIG saw students not paying attention and falling asleep in 
class, concluding that some may not have learned how to conduct census 
operations.[Footnote 11] 

The content of the Bureau's training for field staff also has not 
changed substantially since Census 2000, despite the fact that, 
according to the Bureau itself, collecting data from the nation's 
population has become increasingly difficult. Field workers we spoke to 
during the 2006 test noted two related issues on which they had not 
received sufficient training--dealing with reluctant respondents and 
handling location-specific challenges. 

According to the Department of Commerce OIG, in 2004 field staff 
complained that they felt unprepared to deal with reluctant 
respondents; the OIG report recommended the Bureau consider adding 
content to enhance training on this topic.[Footnote 12] Moreover, our 
review of the Bureau's summaries of debriefings it conducted after the 
2006 test indicated that field staff found respondent reluctance to be 
a challenge.[Footnote 13] Crew leaders noted that this was the most 
difficult task enumerators faced. In our field visits, we observed that 
without adequate preparation in dealing with reluctant responders, 
field staff developed their own strategies when confronted with these 
situations, resulting in inconsistent and sometimes inappropriate data 
collection methods. For example, when unable to contact respondents, 
one Texas enumerator looked up respondent information online, tried to 
find a phone number for another respondent from a neighborhood cat's 
collar, and illegally went through residents' mail. 

Field staff may also need more training in overcoming location-specific 
challenges, such as rural conditions on the Cheyenne River Indian 
Reservation in South Dakota; and counting the transient student 
population in Austin, Texas. For example, in Austin, one crew leader 
explained that training spent a lot of time on mobile homes--which did 
not exist in his area--but very little time on apartment buildings, 
which are common there. Based on our observations of the 2004 test, we 
suggested that the Bureau supplement the existing training with modules 
geared toward addressing the particular enumeration challenges that 
field staff are likely to encounter in specific locales.[Footnote 14] 
During this review, the Bureau told us that it works with regional 
offices to develop 10-minute training modules for specific locations. 
For example, in 2000, Bureau officials said enumerators in Los Angeles 
were trained to look for small, hidden housing units, such as 
apartments in converted garages. Bureau officials said they provide 
guidance on the length of the modules and when they should be 
presented. However, they said they were not sure how often this kind of 
specialized training took place, nor had they allocated time during 
training to present specialized information. 

We believe the Bureau could do more to assist local offices provide 
training that recognizes local conditions. Specifically, based on work 
we will be reporting shortly, we will recommend that the Bureau 
centrally develop training modules covering enumeration strategies in a 
variety of situations, such as mobile homes, large apartment buildings, 
and migrant worker dwellings, which local officials can selectively 
insert into their training if there is a need to train their field 
staff on that topic. Such modules would enhance the effectiveness of 
training by giving greater attention to the challenges field staff are 
likely to face. In commenting on this recommendation, Commerce noted 
that the Bureau works with managers in each regional census center to 
customize a location-specific training module for local census offices. 
Nonetheless, developing modules for different types of locations 
centrally would allow the Bureau to control the consistency and quality 
of training throughout the nation. 

Bureau Is Designing Decennial Activities in the Geographic Area 
Affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita: 

As part of our evaluation of the Bureau's LUCA dress rehearsal, we 
visited the localities along the Gulf Coast to assess the effect the 
devastation caused by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita might have on LUCA 
and possibly other operations. The effects of Hurricanes Katrina and 
Rita are still visible throughout the Gulf Coast region. Hurricane 
Katrina alone destroyed or made uninhabitable an estimated 300,000 
homes; in New Orleans, local officials reported that Hurricane Katrina 
damaged an estimated 123,000 housing units. Such changes in housing 
unit stock continue to present challenges to the implementation of the 
2010 LUCA Program in the Gulf Coast region and possibly other 
operations. Many officials of local governments we visited in hurricane-
affected areas said they have identified numerous housing units that 
have been or will be demolished as a result of hurricanes Katrina and 
Rita and subsequent deterioration. Conversely, many local governments 
estimate that there is new development of housing units in their 
respective jurisdictions. The localities we interviewed in the Gulf 
Coast region indicated that such changes in the housing stock of their 
jurisdictions are unlikely to subside before local governments begin 
reviewing and updating materials for the Bureau's 2010 LUCA Program--in 
August 2007.[Footnote 15] Local government officials told us that 
changes in housing unit stock are often caused by difficulties families 
have in deciding whether to return to hurricane-affected areas. Local 
officials informed us that a family's decision to return is affected by 
various factors, such as the availability of insurance; timing of 
funding from Louisiana's "Road Home" program;[Footnote 16] lack of 
availability of contractors; school systems that are closed; and lack 
of amenities such as grocery stores. As a result of the still changing 
housing unit stock, local governments in hurricane-affected areas may 
be unable to fully capture reliable information about their address 
lists before the beginning of LUCA this year or address canvassing in 
April 2009. Furthermore, operation of local governments themselves has 
been affected by the hurricanes (see fig. 3). These local governments 
are focused on reconstruction and at least two localities we spoke to 
questioned their ability to participate in LUCA. 

Figure 3: City Halls in Mississippi and Louisiana Have Been Destroyed 
and City Officials Now Operate Out of Trailers: 

[See PDF for image] 

Source: GAO (January 2007). 

Note: Pictures are from January 2007. 

[End of figure] 

The mixed condition of the housing stock in the Gulf Coast will 
increase the Bureau's address canvassing workload. During our field 
work, we found that hurricane-affected areas have many neighborhoods 
with abandoned and vacant properties mixed in with occupied housing 
units. Bureau staff conducting address canvassing in these areas may 
have an increased workload due to the additional time necessary to 
distinguish between abandoned, vacant and occupied housing units. 
Another potential issue is that due to continuing changes in the 
condition in the housing stock, housing units that are deemed vacant or 
abandoned during address canvassing may be occupied on Census Day (Apr. 
1, 2010). Bureau officials said that they recognize there are issues 
with uninhabitable structures in hurricane-affected zones. They noted 
that addresses marked as vacant or uninhabitable during address 
canvassing in the Gulf Coast region will not be deleted from the MAF, 
and said that they may adjust training for Bureau staff in hurricane- 
affected areas. 

Workforce shortages may also pose significant problems for the Bureau's 
hiring efforts for address canvassing. The effects of hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita caused a major shift in population away from the 
hurricane-affected areas, especially in Louisiana. This migration 
displaced many low-wage workers. Should this continue, it could affect 
the availability of such workers for address canvassing and other 
decennial census operations. Bureau officials recognize the potential 
difficulty of attracting these workers, and have recommended that the 
Bureau be prepared to meet hourly wage rates for future decennial staff 
that are considerably higher than usual. It has noted that its Dallas 
regional office, which has jurisdiction over hurricane-affected areas 
in Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi, will examine local unemployment 
rates to adjust pay rates in the region, and use "every single entity" 
available to advertise for workers in the New Orleans area. 

Early in 2006, we recommended that the Bureau develop plans (prior to 
the start of the 2010 LUCA Program in August 2007) to assess whether 
new procedures, additional resources, or local partnerships, may be 
required to update the MAF/TIGER database along the Gulf Coast--in the 
areas affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita.[Footnote 17] The Bureau 
responded to our recommendations by chartering a team to assess the 
effect of the storm damage on the Bureau's address list and maps for 
areas along the Gulf Coast and develop strategies with the potential to 
mitigate these effects. The chartered team recommended that the Bureau 
consult with state and regional officials (from the Gulf Coast) on how 
to make LUCA as successful as possible, and hold special LUCA workshops 
for geographic areas identified by the Bureau as needing additional 
assistance. While the Bureau (through its chartered team, headquarters 
staff and Dallas regional office) has proposed several changes to the 
2010 LUCA Program for the Gulf Coast region, there are no specific 
plans for implementing the proposed changes. 

In summary, Mr. Chairman, we recognize the Bureau faces formidable 
challenges in successfully implementing a redesigned decennial census. 
It must also overcome significant challenges of a demographic and 
socioeconomic nature due to the nation's increasing diversity in 
language, ethnicity, households, and housing type, as well as an 
increase in the reluctance of the population to participate in the 
census. The need to enumerate in the areas devastated by hurricanes 
Katrina and Rita is one more significant difficulty the Bureau faces. 
We applaud the moves the Bureau has undertaken to redesign the census; 
we have stated in the past, and believe still, that the reengineering, 
if successful, can help control costs and improve cost effectiveness 
and efficiency. Yet, there is more that the Bureau can do in examining 
and refining its recruiting, hiring, and training practices and in 
preparing to enumerate in the hurricane-affected areas. Also, the 
functionality and usability of the MCD--a key piece of hardware in the 
reengineered census---bears watching as does the oversight and 
management of information technology investments. All told, these areas 
continue to call for risk mitigation plans by the Bureau and careful 
monitoring and oversight by the Commerce Department, the Office of 
Management and Budget, the Congress, GAO, and other key stakeholders. 
As in the past, we look forward to supporting this subcommittee's 
oversight efforts to promote a timely, complete, accurate, and cost- 
effective census. 

Contact and Acknowledgments: 

For further information regarding this testimony, please contact Mathew 
J. Scire on (202) 512-6806, or by email at 

Individuals making contributions to this testimony included Betty 
Clark, Carlos Hazera, Shirley Hwang, Andrea Levine, Lisa Pearson, Mark 
Ryan, Niti Tandon, and Timothy Wexler. 

[End of section] 

Appendix I: Related GAO Products: 

2010 Census: Redesigned Approach Holds Promise, but Census Bureau Needs 
to Annually Develop and Provide a Comprehensive Project Plan to Monitor 
Costs. GAO-06-1009T. Washington, D.C.: July 27, 2006. 

2010 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Take Prompt Actions to Resolve Long-
standing and Emerging Address and Mapping Challenges. GAO-06-272. 
Washington, D.C.: June 15, 2006. 

2010 Census: Costs and Risks Must be Closely Monitored and Evaluated 
with Mitigation Plans in Place. GAO-06-822T. Washington, D.C.: June 6, 

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, 

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] GAO, 2010 Census: Basic Design Has Potential, but Remaining 
Challenges Need Prompt Resolution, GAO-05-9 (Washington, D.C.: Jan. 12, 
2005) and GAO, 2000 Census: Contingency Planning Needed to Address Risk 
That Pose a Threat to a Successful Census, GAO/GGD-00-6 (Washington, 
D.C.: Dec. 14, 1999). 

[2] GAO, 2000 Census: Review of Partnership Program Highlights Best 
Practices for Future Operations, GAO-01-579 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 20, 

[3] GAO/GGD-00-06. 

[4] GAO-05-9. 

[5] 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). 

[6] Department of Commerce, Office of Inspector General, Improving Our 
Measure of America: What the 2004 Census Test Can Teach Us in Planning 
for the 2010 Decennial Census, OIG-16949 (Washington, D.C.: September 

[7] Bureau officials told us that final results of this study are not 
yet available. 

[8] GAO-05-9. 

[9] Department of Commerce OIG, OIG-16949. 

[10] The MCDs developed by Harris will not include software that will 
allow field staff to play games during training. 

[11] Department of Commerce OIG, OIG-16949. 

[12] Department of Commerce OIG, OIG-16949. 

[13] As previously discussed, these sessions aimed to obtain 
information that will improve Bureau procedures, including training. We 
reviewed summaries of debriefings conducted for three operations--NRFU, 
update/enumerate, and address canvassing. 

[14] GAO-05-9. 

[15] The period for local review and update of addresses and maps for 
the 2010 LUCA Program is August 2007-March 2008. 

[16] The "Road Home" Program was implemented by the State of Louisiana 
to provide compensation of up to $150,000 for eligible homeowners 
affected by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. 

[17] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau Needs to Take Prompt Actions to 
Resolve Long-standing and Emerging Address and Mapping Challenges, GAO-
06-272 (Wash. D.C.: June 15, 2006), and GAO, 2010 Census: Costs and 
Risks Must be Closely Monitored and Evaluated with Mitigation Plans in 
Place, GAO-06-822T (Wash. D.C.: June 6, 2006).

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