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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 10:00 a.m. EST:
Thursday, March 5, 2009: 

2010 Census: 

Little Time Remains to Address Operational Challenges: 

Statement of Robert Goldenkoff: 
Director, Strategic Issues: 

David A. Powner: 
Director, Information Technology Management Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-09-408T, a 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. In March 2008, GAO designated the 2010 Census a high-risk 
area in part because of problems with the performance of handheld 
computers used to collect data. The U.S. Census Bureau has since 
strengthened its risk management efforts and made other improvements; 
however, the Bureau curtailed a dress rehearsal scheduled for 2008 and 
was unable to test key operations under census-like conditions. This 
testimony discusses the Bureauís readiness for 2010 and covers: (1) the 
importance of reliable cost estimates; (2) building a complete and 
accurate address list; (3) following up on missing and conflicting 
responses to ensure accuracy; (4) targeting outreach to undercounted 
populations; and (5) designing, testing, and implementing technology 
for the census. The testimony is based on previously issued and ongoing 
GAO work. 

What GAO Found: 

The Bureau estimates the 2010 Census will cost more than $14 billion 
over its life-cycle, making it the most expensive census in the 
nationís history, even after adjusting for inflation. Accurate cost 
estimates help ensure that the Bureau has adequate funds, and that 
Congress, the administration, and the Bureau itself have reliable 
information on which to base advice and decisions. However, as GAO has 
reported before, the Bureau has insufficient policies and procedures 
and inadequately trained staff for conducting high-quality cost 
estimation for the decennial census. 

A successful census requires a complete and accurate address list. The 
Bureau sends thousands of census workers (listers) into the field to 
collect and verify address information, and this year for the first 
time, listers will use handheld computers to collect data. During the 
dress rehearsal, there were significant technical problems. A small-
scale field test showed that these problems appear to have been 
addressed; however, the test was not carried out under full census-like 
conditions and did not validate all address canvassing requirements. 

Nonresponse follow-up, the Bureauís largest and most costly field 
operation, was initially planned to be conducted using the handheld 
computers, but was recently changed to a paper-based system due to 
technology issues. The Bureau has not yet developed a detailed road map 
for monitoring the development and implementation of nonresponse follow-
up under the new design. Such a plan is essential to conducting a 
successful nonresponse follow-up. Furthermore, the system that manages 
the flow of work in field offices is not yet developed. Lacking plans 
for the development of both nonresponse follow-up and this management 
system, the Bureau faces the risk of not having them developed and 
fully tested in time for the 2010 Census. 

In an effort to reduce the undercount, the Bureau is implementing a 
program of paid advertising integrated with other communications 
strategies, such as partnerships with state, local, and tribal 
governments and community organizations. Moving toward 2010, the Bureau 
faces long-standing challenges with the nationís linguistic diversity 
and privacy concerns, which can contribute to the undercounting of some 

Since 2005, we have reported concerns with the Bureauís management and 
testing of key IT systems. We have reviewed the status and plans for 
the testing of key 2010 Census systems. The Bureau has made progress in 
conducting systems, integration, and end-to-end testing, but critical 
testing still remains to be performed before systems will be ready to 
support the 2010 Census, and the planning for the testing needs much 
improvement. In short, while the Bureau has made some noteworthy 
progress in gearing up for the enumeration, with just over a year 
remaining until Census Day, uncertainties surround the Bureauís overall 
readiness for 2010. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO is not making new recommendations, but past reports recommended the 
Bureau improve its cost estimation procedures and accuracy of its 
address list, take steps to ensure the readiness of handheld computers, 
better manage its partnership programs, and conduct end-to-end testing 
of IT systems. The Bureau generally agreed with the recommendations. 

View [hyperlink,] or key 
components. For more information, contact Robert Goldenkoff at (202) 
512-2757 or or David Powner at (202) 512-9286 or 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: 

We are pleased to be here today to discuss the Census Bureau's 
readiness for conducting the decennial census. Today's hearing is 
particularly timely because in 2009 the Bureau transitions from 
planning the 2010 Census to implementing early activities and 
operations. The Bureau has already initiated large-block canvassing--an 
operation where temporary field staff validate address lists and maps 
for census blocks with more than 1,000 housing units in them. Next 
month, the Bureau is scheduled to conduct address canvassing for 
remaining census blocks when about 140,000 temporary employees will 
walk every known street in the country trying to update and verify the 
Bureau's address list and maps for the country. Later in the year, in a 
separate effort, the Bureau is scheduled to update the locations of 
approximately 200,000 "group quarters" including homeless shelters, 
college residence halls, and group homes. The Bureau will also be 
opening hundreds of local census offices and refining plans for later 

Although the Bureau has made considerable progress in gearing up for 
the 2010 Census, the path to the decennial has been a difficult one. 
For example, in April 2008, technical problems with handheld computers 
used to collect data led the Bureau to redesign its approach to taking 
the census. While the Bureau had initially planned to use the handheld 
computers for address canvassing and to collect data from the millions 
of households that fail to mail back their census questionnaires (an 
operation called nonresponse follow-up), the handheld computers now 
will only be used for address canvassing, and the Bureau will instead 
rely on paper forms to conduct nonresponse follow-up. 

Today is the first anniversary of when we designated the 2010 Census to 
be on our high-risk list because of (1) long-standing weaknesses in the 
Bureau's information technology (IT) acquisition and contract 
management function, (2) problems with the performance of handheld 
computers used to collect data, and (3) uncertainty over the ultimate 
cost of the census, currently estimated at more than $14 billion. 
[Footnote 1] In the past year, the Bureau has strengthened its risk 
management efforts and made other improvements. Still, the 2010 Census 
remains high risk, in part because the poor performance of the handheld 
computers drove the Bureau to curtail a critical risk management 
exercise planned for 2008--a "dress rehearsal" of all census 
operations.[Footnote 2] As a result, the Bureau missed its only 
opportunity to demonstrate that the full complement of census-taking 
activities will work in concert with one another under near-census-like 

In light of this difficult operational environment, effective 
stewardship of the Bureau is essential to help ensure the census stays 
on track and the agency continues to embrace a culture of performance 
and accountability. Key to this will be the timely appointment of a 
Census Director who is an efficient administrator, a respected 
technical professional, a strategic leader, and capable of working 
constructively with Congress, officials at all levels of government, as 
well as nongovernmental organizations and the statistical community. 

At your request, we will discuss the state of the census, paying 
particular attention to the following: 

* the importance of using reliable cost estimates and justifications 
for spending on census activities; 

* building a complete and accurate address list to know where to count 

* following up on missing and conflicting responses to ensure 
completeness and accuracy; 

* targeting communications and outreach efforts to reduce the 
differential undercount; and: 

* designing, testing, and implementing technology to support the 

Our testimony today is based on our ongoing and recently completed 
work. See the last page of this statement for a list of our recently 
issued census reports. To determine the readiness of the Bureau to 
conduct the 2010 Census, we reviewed and analyzed scheduling, design, 
operational and testing plans for the various census operations, data 
from the dress rehearsal sites, and documents related to the December 
2008 field test of the handheld computers in Fayetteville, North 
Carolina, and we interviewed Bureau staff. At the field test, we 
observed the handheld computers' ability to collect and transmit 
address data by accompanying census workers as they went door-to-door. 
In February 2009, we also observed census workers conduct large-block 
canvassing using laptop computers. This work was conducted in 
accordance with generally accepted government auditing standards. Those 
standards require that we plan and perform the audits to obtain 
sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for our 
findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe that 
the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings and 

In summary, the Bureau has made commendable progress in rolling out key 
components of the census, making improvements to the handheld 
computers, certain risk management efforts, and how it will print the 
80 million maps needed by temporary field staff to carry out the 
enumeration. Nevertheless, at a time when planning activities should be 
reaching completion, major testing should be winding down, and there 
should be confidence in the functionality of census-taking activities, 
the Bureau instead finds itself lacking sufficient policies, 
procedures, and trained staff to develop high-quality cost estimates, 
and a number of operations and support systems still need to be 
designed, planned, or tested. In the 13 months leading up to Census 
Day, the Bureau will be challenged to implement early operations, 
complete the final preparations for various activities, make 
refinements, and address any glitches that arise. With little time 
remaining, uncertainties surround the Bureau's readiness for 2010. 


As you know, Mr. Chairman, the decennial census is a critical national 
effort mandated by the Constitution. Census data are used to apportion 
seats in 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. 

Importantly, the census is conducted against a backdrop of immutable 
deadlines. In order to meet legally mandated reporting requirements, 
census activities need to take place at specific times and in the 
proper sequence. For example, the group quarters validation operation, 
where census workers verify the location of group quarters, such as 
nursing homes and college dormitories, needs to be completed after the 
address canvassing operation. As a result, it is absolutely critical 
for the Bureau to stay on schedule. Figure 1 shows some dates for 
selected decennial events. 

Figure 1: Timeline of Selected Decennial Events: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Operation or activity: Local update of census addresses (LUCA): 
Localities assist in updating address lists and maps; 
Date: starting January 2007 through February 2010. 

Operation or activity: Opening of 494 local census offices; 
Date: October 2008 through December 2009. 

Operation or activity: Large block canvassing: Field staff validate 
addresses for blocks containing over 1,000 housing units; 
Date: January 2009 through June 2009. 

Operation or activity: Address canvassing: Field staff validate address 
lists and maps; 
Date: April 2009 through July 2009. 

Operation or activity: Group quarters validation: Field staff validate 
addresses for group housing such as prisons and nursing facilities; 
Date: September 2009 through October 2009. 

Operation or activity: Mailout/mailback: Most households are mailed 
census questionnaires; 
Date: March 2009 through October 2010. 

April 1, 2010: Census Day. 

Operation or activity: Update/enumerate: Field staff visit housing 
units that do not have house numbers and/or street names; 
Date: March 2010 through May 2010. 

Operation or activity: Group quarters enumeration: Field staff visit 
group housing such as prisons and nursing facilities; 
Date: March 2010 through May 2010. 

Operation or activity: Nonresponse follow-up: Field staff follow-up in 
person with nonresponding households; 
Date: May 2010 through July 2010. 

Operation or activity: Coverage follow-up: Staff follow-up by telephone 
to resolve conflicting information provided on census forms; 
Date: April 2010 through August 2010. 

December 31, 2010: Delivery of apportionment counts to the President. 

April 1, 2011: Complete delivery of redistricting data to states. 

Source: GAO summary of U.S. Census Bureau information. 

[End of figure] 

The Bureau estimates that the 2010 Census will cost more than $14 
billion over its life-cycle, making it the most expensive census in our 
nation's history. According to the Bureau, the increasing cost of the 
census is caused in part 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. 

Automation and IT will play a critical role in the success of the 2010 
Census by supporting data collection, analysis, and dissemination. 
According to the Bureau's estimates, it is spending more than $3 
billion on IT acquisitions for the census. The Bureau is relying on 
both the acquisition of new systems and the enhancement of existing 
legacy systems for conducting operations for the 2010 Census. These 
systems are to play important roles with regard to different aspects of 
the process, such as providing geographic information to establish 
where to count, capturing and integrating census responses, supporting 
field operations such as address canvassing, and tabulating and 
publicly disseminating census data. 

Providing Reliable Cost Estimates and Justifications for Spending as 
2010 Approaches Presents a Major Challenge for the Bureau: 

Accurate cost estimates are essential to a successful census because 
they help ensure that the Bureau has adequate funds, and so that 
Congress, the administration, and the Bureau itself can have reliable 
information on which to base or advise decisions. However, as we have 
reported before, the Bureau has insufficient policies and procedures 
and inadequately trained staff for conducting high-quality cost 
estimation for the decennial census.[Footnote 3] The Bureau does not 
have cost estimation guidance and procedures in place or staff that is 
certified in cost estimation techniques. The Bureau is developing a new 
budget management tool that will support the cost estimation process 
beyond 2010. As part of that, the Bureau will need to establish 
rigorous cost estimation policies and procedures and use skilled 
estimators to ensure that future cost estimates are reliable and of 
high quality. 

For example, to help manage the 2010 census and contain costs, over 5 
years ago we recommended that the Bureau develop a comprehensive, 
integrated project plan for the 2010 Census that should include the 
itemized, estimated costs of each component and a sensitivity analysis 
[Footnote 4] and an explanation of significant changes in the 
assumptions on which these costs were based.[Footnote 5] In response, 
the Bureau provided us with the 2010 Census Operations and Systems 
Plan, dated August 2007. This plan represented an important step 
forward by including operational inputs and outputs and describing 
linkages among operations and systems. However, that document did not 
include itemized cost estimates of each component or sensitivity 
analysis, and thus did not provide a valid baseline or range of 
estimates for the Bureau and Congress. The Bureau has provided annual 
cost updates as part of its budget submission process, but these too 
have lacked cost analyses to support them. As the Bureau approaches the 
final surge in the current decade-long decennial spending cycle, 
providing reliable cost estimates accompanied by sound justification, 
as we have recommended, will be important if Congress is to make 
informed decisions about the levels at which to fund the remainder of 
the 2010 Census. 

Effective Address Canvassing Is Essential for a Complete and Accurate 

A complete and accurate list of all addresses where people live in the 
country 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. The Bureau goes to great lengths to develop a quality address 
list and maps, working with the U.S. Postal Service; federal agencies; 
state, local, and tribal governments; local planning organizations; the 
private sector; and nongovernmental entities. For example, under the 
Local Update of Census Addresses (LUCA) program, the Bureau is 
authorized to partner with state, local, and tribal governments, 
tapping into their knowledge of local populations and housing 
conditions in order to secure a more complete count.[Footnote 6] 
Between November 2007 and March 2008, over 8,000 state, local, and 
tribal governments provided approximately 8 million address updates 
through the LUCA program. The Bureau will send thousands of temporary 
census workers, known as listers, into the field to collect and verify 
address information and update maps on-site, including verifying 
address updates provided through the LUCA program. 

Despite the Bureau's efforts, an inherent challenge is locating 
unconventional and hidden housing units, such as converted basements 
and attics. For example, as shown in figure 2, what appears to be a 
small, single-family house could contain an apartment, as suggested by 
its two doorbells. The Bureau has trained listers to look for extra 
mailboxes, utility meters, and other signs of hidden housing units and 
is developing training guides for 2010 to help listers locate hidden 
housing. Nonetheless, decisions on what is a habitable dwelling are 
often difficult to make--what is habitable to one worker may seem 
uninhabitable to another. According to Bureau estimates, approximately 
1.4 million housing units were missed in the 2000 Census. If an address 
is not in the Bureau's address file, its residents are less likely to 
be included in the census. 

Figure 2: Single or Multi-unit Housing? 

[Refer to PDF for image: photograph] 

Photograph of single family home. Two doorbells could indicate two 
housing units. 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Performance of Handheld Computers Has Improved in Field Testing, but 
More Information Is Needed to Evaluate Readiness for Address 

A nationwide address canvassing operation for the 2010 Census is 
scheduled to begin this spring, when listers will use handheld 
computers for the first time to collect address data. Listers will add 
addresses that do not already appear on the Bureau's list and mark for 
deletion any that they cannot verify according to the rules and 
guidance developed by the Bureau. 

When the handheld computers were tested during the dress rehearsal of 
the address canvassing operation, the devices experienced such problems 
as slow or inconsistent data transmission, freeze-ups, and difficulties 
collecting mapping coordinates.[Footnote 7] The software that managers 
used to review worker productivity and assign work was also 
troublesome.[Footnote 8] For example, management reports were 
unreliable because they pulled data from incorrect sources, and Bureau 
staff had difficulty using the work management software to reassign 

The Bureau took steps to fix these issues and, in December 2008, 
conducted a limited field test in Fayetteville, North Carolina, to test 
the functionality and usability of the handheld computer, including 
whether the handheld computer problems encountered earlier had been 
resolved. Although the Bureau's final evaluation of the field test was 
due by the end of February 2009, we were not able to review it for this 
testimony. From our observations of the December 2008 field test and 
interviews with Bureau officials, the Bureau appears to have addressed 
many of the handheld computer performance issues, as well as the 
problems with the work management software, observed during the dress 
rehearsal. This is an important and noteworthy development. 

Nonetheless, more information is needed to determine the Bureau's 
overall readiness for address canvassing as the field test was not an 
end-to-end systems evaluation, did not validate all address canvassing 
requirements, such as training and help desk support, and did not 
include urban areas. Additionally, the scale of the field test was a 
fraction of that of the address canvassing operation. The Bureau was to 
conduct a review of the readiness of the handheld computers in January 
2009 but has not yet reported the results of that review. Finally, the 
Bureau's actual workload for address canvassing--about 144.7 million 
addresses--is 11 million addresses more than the Bureau had planned 
for, leaving the Bureau with too few handheld computers to complete the 
workload in the time originally scheduled. In response, the Bureau will 
be extending the amount of time listers will be working in the field in 
affected areas, although not extending the end date of the operation, 
to compensate for the larger workload. 

During the dress rehearsal, listers also experienced problems when 
collecting address data for large blocks having more than 1,000 housing 
units. According to the Bureau, the handheld computer did not have the 
capacity to efficiently collect data for large blocks. The Bureau has 
taken steps to mitigate this problem. Specifically, in January 2009, 
the Bureau began using laptop computers and software already used in 
other operations to canvass the 2,086 blocks it identified as large 
blocks, and by the end of February 2009, the Bureau had completed 
approximately 80 percent of large-block canvassing.[Footnote 9] In 
February 2009 we observed large-block canvassing in Atlanta, Georgia; 
Boston, Massachusetts; New York, New York; San Francisco, California; 
and Washington, D.C. From our preliminary observations, the laptops 
appear to work well, and listers reported their training was 
satisfactory. We are in the process of discussing these and other 
observations with the Bureau. 

Bureau Needs to Finalize Field Data Collection Plans: 

The Bureau's largest and most costly field operation is nonresponse 
follow-up. The Bureau estimates that it will employ over 600,000 
temporary workers to collect data from about 47 million nonresponding 
households over the course of 10 weeks in 2010. On April 3, 2008, the 
Bureau announced that it would no longer use handheld computers for 
nonresponse follow-up and would instead change to a paper-based 
nonresponse follow-up operation. According to the Bureau, this change 
added between $2.2 billion to $3 billion to the total cost of the 

In May 2008, the Bureau issued a plan that covered major components of 
the paper-based nonresponse follow-up. Bureau officials said that they 
are developing a more detailed plan that would describe 2010 
nonresponse follow-up operations and systems, workflow, major 
milestones, and roles and responsibilities of different census 
divisions. Although the plan was due in January 2009, it has yet to be 
completed. Because this plan serves as a road map for monitoring the 
development and implementation of nonresponse follow-up, it will be 
important for the Bureau to complete this plan. 

The Bureau has changed plans for many aspects of nonresponse follow-up, 
and officials are determining which activities and interfaces will be 
tested and when that testing will occur. Although the Bureau has 
carried out a paper-based follow-up operation in past decennials, the 
2010 Census includes new procedures and system interfaces that have not 
been tested under census-like conditions because they were dropped from 
the dress rehearsal. Bureau officials acknowledged the importance of 
testing new and modified nonresponse follow-up activities and system 
interfaces in order to reduce risk but have not yet developed detailed 
testing plans. Given the number of tasks at hand and the increasingly 
shorter time frame in which to accomplish them, it will be important 
for the Bureau to monitor the development of these testing plans, 
coordinate this testing with other activities, and ensure that testing 
occurs in time to take corrective actions, if needed. 

In our previous work, we have highlighted the importance of sound risk 
management in planning for the decennial census.[Footnote 10] The 
Bureau has strengthened aspects of its risk management process. For 
example, in July 2008, the Bureau identified 31 nonresponse follow-up 
risks, such as lower than expected enumerator productivity. However, it 
has not developed mitigation plans for these risks. Officials said that 
they are reevaluating these risks and plan to develop mitigation plans 
for high-and medium-priority nonresponse follow-up risks starting in 
spring 2009. However, the Bureau has not yet determined when these 
plans will be completed. 

Coverage Follow-up Operation Needs to Be Finalized: 

One of the Bureau's long-standing challenges is resolving conflicting 
information respondents provide on census forms. This problem can 
occur, for example, when the number of household members reported on a 
completed form differs from the number of persons for whom information 
is provided. In such instances, the Bureau attempts to reconcile the 
data during the coverage follow-up operation. For 2010, the Bureau 
plans to expand the scope of this operation and include two questions-
-known as coverage probes--on the census form to help identify 
households where someone may have been missed or counted incorrectly 
(see figure 3). 

Figure 3: Example of Coverage Probes from Draft 2010 Census Form: 

[Refer to PDF for image: illustration] 

Undercount probe: 
2. Were there any additional people staying here April 1, 2010 that you 
did not include in Question 1? Mark all that apply: 
Children, such as new born babies or foster children; 
Relatives, such as adult children, cousins, or in-laws; 
People staying here temporarily; 
No additional people. 

Overcount probe: 
10. Does person 1 sometimes live or stay somewhere else? 
Yes: Mark all that apply: 
In college housing; 
In the military; 
At a seasonal or second residence; 
For child custody; 
In jail or prison; 
In a nursing home; 
For another reason. 

Source: GAO presentation of U.S. Census Bureau information. 

[End of figure] 

However, after testing the probes earlier in the decade, the Bureau 
found one of the probes was problematic in identifying persons 
potentially missing from the count. Although these probes were included 
on the forms mailed out during the dress rehearsal, the coverage follow-
up operation did not include cases from nonresponse follow-up, which 
was canceled from the dress rehearsal. In the absence of a final test 
of the coverage probes in nonresponse follow-up, the effectiveness of 
the information generated by the probes is uncertain. 

Fieldwork Management System for Most Operations Still Needs to Be 
Specified and Programmed: 

A successful census depends, in large part, on the work carried out in 
the local census offices.[Footnote 11] For the 2010 Census, this field 
work cannot be accomplished without a properly functioning OCS. This 
system is intended to provide managers with essential, real-time 
information, such as worker productivity and completion rates for field 
operations. It also allows managers to assign and reassign cases among 
workers. If the system does not work as intended, it could bog down or 
delay field operations and introduce errors into data collected. 

Initially, the Bureau had planned to use a contractor to develop OCS to 
manage the workflow for those operations relying on paper-based 
processes, such as group quarters enumeration and nonresponse follow- 
up. However, in August 2008, the Bureau created an internal program to 
develop OCS and other related infrastructure that are needed to support 
these operations. The Bureau is still in the process of developing OCS 
for paper-based operations. 

Although the Bureau has established a high-level schedule for testing 
OCS, it has not yet finalized the requirements needed to begin its 
programming or developed a detailed schedule for conducting additional 
tests. Further, the Bureau has not yet fully defined how OCS will work 
together with other systems. According to Bureau officials, the lack of 
detailed plans for operations, such as nonresponse follow-up, makes it 
difficult to finalize requirements for OCS or its testing plans. Our 
work on IT systems testing has shown that without adequate oversight 
and more comprehensive guidance, the Bureau cannot ensure that it is 
thoroughly testing its systems and properly prioritizing testing 
activities before the 2010 Census. 

The Bureau Has Taken Steps to Improve Map Production but Faces a Tight 

The Bureau estimates that it will need to produce approximately 30 
million different map files from which 80 million paper maps will be 
printed to assist census workers in locating addresses in major census 
operations. The quality of maps and the timing of map printing are 
critical to the success of the census. In addition, many map production 
and printing activities must be conducted in sequence with no time to 
spare, putting at risk the Bureau's ability to print its maps on time. 
The Bureau has taken positive steps to meet its requirements for map 
production and printing for 2010. For example, in June 2008, the Bureau 
decided to produce a generic map type in lieu of several operation- 
specific versions to reduce the number of map files to be produced. 
Furthermore, the Bureau is preparing to print most of its maps at the 
local census offices rather than at the regional offices, reducing the 
need to coordinate map delivery to the local census offices. In 
addition, the Bureau has replaced its labor-intensive quality assurance 
process with integrated, automated processes. These steps taken to 
improve workflow will become particularly important as the Bureau works 
to produce and print maps on an already compressed schedule. 

The Bureau's schedule for producing and printing maps does not allow 
for any delays in receiving data from other operations or from the 
contractor delivering map files. For example, the Bureau intends to 
include map information from address canvassing, which ends in July 
2009, in maps that will be used to validate locations of group 
quarters, which begins in September 2009. Bureau officials have stated 
that the turnaround time between these operations allows no slippage, 
and if these data are received late, an entire chain of subsequent map 
production steps would be thrown off schedule. Furthermore, according 
to the Bureau, local census offices need to receive map files from the 
contractor in time to print maps for certain field operations by 
January 8, 2010. However, the contractor is not scheduled to finish 
delivering the map files until January 19, 2010. Bureau officials said 
that they have taken steps to ensure that the necessary map files are 
delivered in time for printing but are still working to resolve the 

Census Marketing Programs Will Need to Improve Response Rates of 
Historically Undercounted Groups: 

The Bureau goes to great lengths to reduce the undercount, especially 
for those groups likely to be undercounted at a higher rate than 
others, such as minorities and renters. For example, the Bureau plans 
to provide language assistance guides in 59 languages for completing 
the census, an increase from 49 languages in 2000. For the first time 
in 2010, the Bureau plans to send bilingual questionnaires to 
approximately 13 million households that are currently likely to need 
Spanish language assistance, as determined by analyzing recent data 
from a related Bureau survey program. 

The Bureau also plans to deploy a multifaceted communications campaign 
consisting of, among other efforts, paid advertising and the hiring of 
as many as 680 partnership staff who will be tasked with reaching out 
to local governments, community groups, and other organizations in an 
effort to secure a more complete count. Overall, the Bureau estimates 
it will spend around $410 million on its communication efforts for the 
2010 Census. However, in constant 2010 dollars, this amount is somewhat 
less than the approximately $480 million that the Bureau spent 
marketing the 2000 Census. 

Although the effects of the Bureau's communication efforts are 
difficult to measure, the Bureau reported some positive results from 
its 2000 Census marketing efforts with respect to raising awareness of 
the census. For example, four population groups--non-Hispanic Blacks, 
non-Hispanic Whites, Asians, and Native Hawaiians--indicated they were 
more likely to return the census form after the 2000 Census partnership 
and marketing program than before its onset. However, a Bureau 
evaluation demonstrated only a limited linkage between the partnership 
and marketing effort and improvements in actual census mail return 
behavior for these or other groups. Put another way, while the Bureau's 
marketing activities might raise awareness of the census, a remaining 
challenge is converting that awareness into an actual response. Other 
marketing challenges include long-standing issues such as the nation's 
linguistic diversity and privacy concerns, as well as a number of newly 
emerging concerns, such as local campaigns against illegal immigration 
and a post-September 11 environment that could heighten some groups' 
fear of government agencies. 

Managing and Testing Information Technology Systems Remain a Concern: 

Since 2005, we have reported on weaknesses in the Bureau's management 
of its IT acquisitions, and we remain concerned about the Bureau's IT 
management and testing of key 2010 Census systems. For example, in 
October 2007, we reported on the status of and plans for key 2010 
Census IT acquisitions and whether the Bureau was adequately managing 
associated risks.[Footnote 12] We found critical weaknesses in the 
Bureau's risk management practices, including those associated with 
risk identification, mitigation, and oversight. We later presented 
multiple testimonies on the Bureau's progress in addressing significant 
risks facing the 2010 Census. In particular, the Field Data Collection 
Automation (FDCA) program, which includes the development of handheld 
computers for the address canvassing operation and the systems, 
equipment, and infrastructure that field staff will use to collect 
data, has experienced significant problems. For example, in March 2008, 
we testified that the FDCA program was experiencing schedule delays and 
cost increases, and was contributing significant risk to the 2010 
Census. At that time, we highlighted our previous recommendations to 
better manage FDCA and the other IT acquisitions.[Footnote 13] 

In response to our findings and recommendations, the Bureau has taken 
several steps to improve its management of IT for the 2010 Census. For 
example, the Bureau has sought external assessments of its activities 
from independent research organizations, implemented a new management 
structure and management processes and brought in experienced personnel 
to key positions, and improved several reporting processes and metrics. 
In part due to our review of the FDCA program, the Bureau requested a 
revised cost proposal for the FDCA program, which resulted in a cost 
reduction of about $318 million for the remaining 5-year life-cycle of 
the program. 

As we have previously reported, operational testing planned during the 
census dress rehearsal would take place without the full complement of 
systems and functionality that was originally planned, and it was 
unclear whether the Bureau was developing plans to test all 
interrelated systems and functionality. At your request, we reviewed 
the status and plans of testing of key 2010 Census systems. As stated 
in our report, which we are releasing today, we found that the Bureau 
has made progress in conducting systems, integration, and end-to-end 
testing, but critical testing still remains to be performed before 
systems will be ready to support the 2010 Census, and the planning, 
execution, and monitoring of its testing needs much improvement. 
[Footnote 14] We are making 10 recommendations for strengthening the 
Bureau's testing of 2010 Census systems. Those recommendations address 
improvements needed in test planning, management, and monitoring. In 
response to our report, the Department of Commerce and the Bureau 
stated they had no significant disagreements with our recommendations. 

In summary, little more than a year remains until Census Day. At a time 
when major testing should be completed and there should be confidence 
in the functionality of key operations, the Bureau instead finds itself 
managing late design changes and developing testing plans. The Bureau 
has taken some important steps toward mitigating some of the challenges 
that it has faced to date, yet much remains uncertain, and the risks to 
a successful decennial census remain. Addressing these risks and 
challenges will be critical to the timely completion of a cost- 
effective census, and it will be essential for the Bureau to develop 
plans for testing systems and procedures not included in the dress 
rehearsal, and for Congress to monitor the Bureau's progress. 

As always, we look forward to working with Congress in assessing the 
Bureau's efforts to overcome these hurdles to a successful census and 
providing regular updates on the rollout of the decennial in the 
critical months that lie ahead. 

Mr. Chairman and members of the Subcommittee, this concludes our 
statement. We would be happy to respond to any questions that you or 
members of the Subcommittee may have at this time. 

If you have any questions on matters discussed in this testimony, 
please contact Robert Goldenkoff at (202) 512-2757 or David A. Powner 
at (202) 512-9286 or by e-mail at or Other key contributors to this testimony include 
Sher'rie Bacon, Thomas Beall, Steven Berke, Vijay D'Souza, Elizabeth 
Fan, Richard Hung, Andrea Levine, Signora May, Ty Mitchell, Catherine 
Myrick, Lisa Pearson, Kathleen Padulchick, Crystal Robinson, Melissa 
Schermerhorn, Cynthia Scott, Karl Seifert, Jonathan Ticehurst, Timothy 
Wexler, and Katherine Wulff. 

[End of section] 

Related GAO Products: 

High Risk: An Update. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: January 

2010 Census: The Bureau's Plans for Reducing the Undercount Show 
Promise, but Key Uncertainties Remain. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: September 
23, 2008. 

2010 Census: Census Bureau's Decision to Continue with Handheld 
Computers for Address Canvassing Makes Planning and Testing Critical. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
July 31, 2008. 

2010 Census: Census Bureau Should Take Action to Improve the 
Credibility and Accuracy of Its Cost Estimate for the Decennial Census. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
June 16, 2008. 

2010 Census: Plans for Decennial Census Operations and Technology Have 
Progressed, But Much Uncertainty Remains. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: June 11, 

2010 Census: Bureau Needs to Specify How It Will Assess Coverage Follow-
up Techniques and When It Will Produce Coverage Measurement Results. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
April 15, 2008. 

2010 Census: Census at Critical Juncture for Implementing Risk 
Reduction Strategies. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: April 9, 

Information Technology: Significant Problems of Critical Automation 
Program Contribute to Risks Facing 2010 Census. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: March 5, 

Information Technology: Census Bureau Needs to Improve Its Risk 
Management of Decennial Systems. [hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: December 
11, 2007. 

2010 Census: Planning and Testing Activities Are Making Progress. 
[hyperlink,]. Washington, D.C.: 
March 1, 2006. 

[End of section] 


[1] GAO, Information Technology: Significant Problems of Critical 
Automation Program Contribute to Risks Facing 2010 Census, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 5, 

[2] GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: January 

[3] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau Should Take Action to Improve the 
Credibility and Accuracy of Its Cost Estimate for the Decennial Census, 
[hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: 
June 16, 2008). 

[4] Sensitivity analysis examines the effect of changing one assumption 
or cost driver at a time while holding all other variables constant. 

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

[6] Census Address List Improvement Act of 1994, Pub. L. No. 103-430. 

[7] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau's Decision to Continue with 
Handheld Computers for Address Canvassing Makes Planning and Testing 
Critical, [hyperlink,] 
(Washington, D.C.: July 31, 2008). 

[8] GAO, 2010 Census: Plans for Decennial Census Operations and 
Technology Have Progressed, But Much Uncertainty Remains, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 11, 

[9] These 2,086 large blocks are located in 332 counties and are 
concentrated in the following regions: Atlanta, Charlotte, Dallas, 
Denver, Los Angeles, and New York. 

[10] [hyperlink,]. 

[11] For all decennial census operations, the Bureau plans to hire 1.4 
million temporary employees who will receive their training and work 
assignments through 494 local census offices, as well as the 12 
regional census centers throughout the country. 

[12] GAO, Information Technology: Census Bureau Needs to Improve Its 
Risk Management of Decennial Systems, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Oct. 5, 

[13] [hyperlink,]. 

[14] GAO, Information Technology: Census Bureau Testing of 2010 
Decennial Systems Can Be Strengthened, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 5, 

[End of section] 

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