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

United States Government Accountability Office: 

For Release on Delivery: 
Expected at 3:00 p.m. EDT:
Wednesday, October 7, 2009: 

2010 Census: 

Census Bureau Continues to Make Progress in Mitigating Risks to a 
Successful Enumeration, but Still Faces Various Challenges: 

Statement of Robert Goldenkoff:
Director, Strategic Issues: 


GAO Highlights: 

Highlights of GAO-10-132T, a testimony before the Subcommittee on 
Federal Financial Management, Government Information, Federal Services, 
and International Security, Committee on Homeland Security and 
Governmental Affairs, U.S. Senate. 

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 help allocate billions of dollars in 
federal assistance. In March 2008, GAO designated the 2010 Census a 
high-risk area in part because of information technology (IT) 
shortcomings. The U.S. Census Bureau (Bureau) has since strengthened 
its risk management efforts and made other improvements; however, in 
March 2009, GAO noted that a number of challenges and uncertainties 
remained. This testimony discusses the Bureau’s readiness for 2010 and 
covers: (1) the delivery of key IT systems, (2) preliminary findings on 
the results of address canvassing and the lessons learned from that 
operation that can be applied to subsequent field operations, and (3) 
the Bureau’s progress in improving its cost estimation abilities. The 
testimony is based on previously issued and ongoing GAO work. 

What GAO Found: 

The Bureau continues to make noteworthy gains in mitigating risks and 
in keeping the headcount on-track, but a number of challenges remain. 
Specifically, over the last few months, the Bureau has made important 
strides in improving oversight of testing key IT systems. For example, 
the Bureau named a testing officer to monitor the testing of census-
taking activities. The Bureau has also made progress in system testing, 
but faces tight timeframes in finalizing the paper-based operations 
control system (PBOCS), which will be used to manage field operations. 
If any significant problems are identified during the testing phases of 
PBOCS, there will be little time, in most cases, to resolve the 
problems before the system needs to be deployed.  

Address canvassing, an operation where temporary workers known as 
listers go door–to-door to verify and update address data, finished 
ahead of schedule, but was over budget. Based on initial Bureau data, 
the preliminary figure on the actual cost of address canvassing is $88 
million higher than the original estimate of $356 million, an overrun 
of 25 percent. A key reason for the overrun is that the Bureau did not 
update its cost estimates to reflect the changes to the address 
canvassing workload. Further, the Bureau did not follow its staffing 
strategy and hired too many listers. The Bureau’s efforts to 
fingerprint employees, which was required as part of a criminal 
background check, did not proceed smoothly, in part because of training 
issues. As a result, over 35,000 temporary census workers--over a fifth 
of the address canvassing workforce--were hired despite the fact that 
their fingerprints could not be processed and they were not fully 
screened for employment eligibility. The Bureau is refining instruction 
manuals and taking other steps to improve the fingerprinting process 
for future operations. 

GAO is unable to verify the accuracy of the $14.7 billion estimated 
cost of the 2010 Census because key details and assumptions are 
unavailable. However, the Bureau is taking steps to improve its cost 
estimation process for 2020, including training its staff in cost 
estimation skills. 

While the Bureau has taken a number of actions to mitigate risk and its 
overall readiness for 2010 has improved, much work remains to be done. 
Many things can happen over the next few months, and keeping the entire 
enterprise on-plan will continue to be a daunting challenge fraught 
with risks. High levels of public participation, and continued Bureau 
and congressional attention to stewardship, performance, and 
accountability, will be key to a successful census. 

What GAO Recommends: 

GAO is not making new recommendations, but past reports recommended the 
Bureau improve its cost estimation procedures, ensure the accuracy of 
its address list, 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 

[End of section] 

Mr. Chairman, Senator McCain, and Members of the Subcommittee: 

I am pleased to be here today to provide a progress report on the U.S. 
Census Bureau's (Bureau) implementation of the 2010 Census. As you 
know, in March 2008, we designated the 2010 Census a high-risk area, 
citing a number of long-standing and emerging challenges including (1) 
weaknesses in the Bureau's information technology (IT) acquisition and 
contract management function; (2) problems with the performance of 
handheld computers (HHC) that were designed in part for address 
canvassing, a massive field operation where temporary census employees 
go door-to-door to update the Bureau's address list of around 140 
million housing units; and (3) uncertainty over the ultimate cost of 
the census--now estimated at around $14.7 billion.[Footnote 1] 

Overarching all of these concerns was the lack of a full dress 
rehearsal, which limited the Bureau's ability to demonstrate critical 
enumeration activities under near-census-like conditions, and the lack 
of time to complete remaining work. By law, Census Day is April 1, 
2010. As a result, the design and execution of the decennial census 
proceed under a rigid schedule; there are no timeouts, no do-overs, and 
no reset buttons. Collectively, these issues raised questions about the 
Bureau's readiness for the 2010 Census. 

This past March, exactly a year after we identified the decennial 
census as a high-risk area, we appeared before this Subcommittee and 
testified that the Bureau had made commendable progress in rolling out 
key components of the census, making improvements to the HHCs, certain 
risk management efforts, and various other activities. Nevertheless, a 
number of operations and support systems still needed to be designed, 
planned, and tested.[Footnote 2] 

As requested, my remarks today will focus on the extent to which the 
Bureau has improved its overall preparedness for the headcount, paying 
particular attention to the steps the Bureau has taken since March 
2009, to mitigate risks and implement critical enumeration activities. 
The focus of my discussion will be (1) the rollout of key IT systems, 
(2) our preliminary findings on the results of address canvassing and 
the lessons learned from that operation that can be applied to 
subsequent field operations, and (3) the Bureau's progress in improving 
its cost estimation abilities. 

Lessons learned from 2010 will also be useful for informing the design 
of the next decennial census. Rigorous planning and perhaps even a 
fundamental re-examination of the census might be required because the 
current approach to the national enumeration may no longer be 
financially sustainable. Indeed, the cost of conducting the census has, 
on average, doubled each decade since 1970 in constant 2010 dollars. If 
that rate of cost escalation continues into 2020, the nation could be 
looking at a $30 billion census. 

My testimony today is based on our ongoing and completed reviews of the 
development, testing, and implementation of selected IT systems; our on-
site observations of address canvassing this past spring; and our 
examination of the Bureau's efforts to improve its cost estimates. 
Specifically, we analyzed key documents including plans, procedures, 
and guidance for the selected activities, and interviewed cognizant 
Bureau officials at headquarters and local census offices. In addition, 
during address canvassing, we conducted 38 observations of address 
listers and crew leaders as they went door-to-door and interviewed 
local census office managers in 20 urban, suburban, and rural early 
local census offices across the country. We anticipate issuing more 
comprehensive reports on the results of this work in the near future. 

On September 29, 2009, we provided the Bureau with a statement of facts 
for ongoing audit work, and on October 1, 2009, the Bureau forwarded 
written comments. The Bureau made some suggestions where additional 
context or clarification was needed and, where appropriate, we made 
those changes. We conducted our work 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 conclusions based on our audit 

In summary, the Bureau continues to make noteworthy progress in 
mitigating risks and keeping the decennial on track. Still, as the 
Bureau is well aware, much work remains to be done, and a successful 
census requires the near perfect alignment of a myriad of activities as 
well as a high level of public cooperation, and even a small setback or 
misstep could mushroom and potentially derail the Bureau's efforts. 
More specifically, over the last few months, the Bureau has made 
important strides in improving oversight of testing key IT systems, 
strengthened certain risk management activities, and generally 
completed address canvassing ahead of schedule. Further, we are 
encouraged by the seating of a new census director this past July (this 
position had been vacant for several months), as well as by the 
experienced advisors he has put in place to assist him, several of whom 
have experience from the 2000 Census. 

That said, a number of challenges and uncertainties still need to be 
addressed. For example, while the Bureau has made progress in testing 
key decennial systems, critical testing activities need to be completed 
before the systems will be ready to support the 2010 Census. Further, 
the Bureau's ability to develop accurate and reliable cost estimates 
for the census remains a concern. For example, based on initial Bureau 
data, the preliminary figure on the actual cost of address canvassing 
is $88 million (25 percent) higher than the original estimate of $356 
million. Moreover, the Bureau's efforts to fingerprint employees, which 
was required as part of a criminal background check, did not proceed 
smoothly, and over 35,000 temporary census workers--over a fifth of the 
address canvassing workforce--were hired despite the fact that their 
fingerprints could not be processed, in part because many were 

Overall, while there have been many positive developments in the last 
few months, the 2010 Census remains a high risk area because of the 
amount of work that still needs to be completed under a very tight time 
frame, as well as for the inherent uncertainties in managing such a 
complex enterprise, including the ultimate level of public 
participation. Public engagement along with continued congressional and 
Bureau attention to stewardship, performance, and accountability are 
key to a successful census. 


As you know, Mr. Chairman, the decennial census is a constitutionally 
mandated enterprise critical to our nation. Census data are used to 
apportion seats and redraw Congressional districts, and to help 
allocate over $400 billion in federal aid to state and local 
governments each year. 

We added the 2010 Census to our list of high-risk areas in March 2008 
because improvements were needed in the Bureau's management of IT 
systems, the reliability of the HHCs, and the quality of the Bureau's 
cost estimates. Compounding the risk was that the Bureau canceled a 
full dress rehearsal of the census that was scheduled in 2008, in part, 
because of the HHC's performance problem, which included freeze-ups and 
unreliable data transmissions. Although the Bureau had planned to use 
the HHCs to collect data for both address canvassing and in going door 
to door following up with nonrespondents, the Bureau ultimately decided 
to use the HHCs for address canvassing and revert to collecting 
nonresponse follow-up data using paper.[Footnote 3] As a result of this 
decision, the Bureau had to redesign components of its field data 
collection system to accommodate the new approach, thus introducing new 

Among other actions, in response to our findings and recommendations, 
the Bureau strengthened its risk management efforts, including the 
development of a high-risk improvement plan that described the Bureau's 
strategy for managing risk and key actions to address our concerns. 

Still, in March 2009, in testimony before this Subcommittee, we 
continued to question the Bureau's readiness. Specifically, we noted 
that with little more than a year remaining until Census Day, 
uncertainties surrounded critical operations and support systems, and 
the Bureau lacked sufficient policies, procedures, and trained staff to 
develop high-quality cost estimates. Moving forward, we said that 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. 

The Bureau Has Made Progress on the Management and Testing of Key IT 
Systems, but Little Time Remains to Address Outstanding Issues: 

Since 2005, we have reported on weaknesses in the Bureau's management 
of its IT acquisitions, and issues continue concerning the Bureau's IT 
management and testing of key 2010 Census systems. In March 2009, we 
reported and testified that while the Bureau took initial steps to 
enhance its program-wide oversight of testing activities, those steps 
had not been sufficient.[Footnote 4] Furthermore, while the Bureau had 
made progress in testing key decennial systems, critical testing 
activities remained to be performed before they would be ready to 
support the 2010 Census. At that time we recommended that the Bureau 
improve its oversight of the completion of testing activities for key 

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 named a Decennial Census Testing Officer whose 
primary responsibilities include monitoring testing for decennial 
census activities. In order to help improve the rigor and quality of 
test planning and documentation, this official leads a bimonthly 
process to consolidate and evaluate test planning and status across all 
key decennial census operations, resulting in a decennial census 
testing overview document. 

With respect to system testing, progress is being made, but much 
testing remains to be completed as shown in the following table. 

Table 1: Status of key testing activities: 

Census system: Headquarters Processing - Universe Control and 
Status of testing activities: System development is divided into three 
phases. According to the Bureau, testing for the first of three phases 
has completed and the second phase is being tested. 

Census system: Headquarters Processing - Response Processing System; 
Status of testing activities: Testing is not anticipated to start until 
November 2009. 

Census system: Master Address File/Topologically Integrated Geographic 
Encoding and Referencing (MAF/TIGER) System; 
Status of testing activities: Five of eight test plans for 2010 
Operations have been baselined. Testing activities for one baselined 
test plan (address canvassing) have been completed; three are under 
way; and one has not yet started. The approach to test metrics for 
MAF/TIGER has recently been revised; however, only two of five 
baselined test plans include detailed metrics. 

Census system: Field Data Collection Automation (FDCA); 
Status of testing activities: Address canvassing operation completed, 
and map printing software deployed to field offices. The FDCA 
contractor is supporting the group-quarters validation operation[A] and 
map printing activities. 

Census system: Decennial Response Integration System; 
Status of testing activities: Four of five increments have been tested. 
A sixth increment was added to account for late changes. Two of four 
rounds of additional operational testing are under way. The program has 
completed testing for 7 of 16 interfaces, but has experienced delays in 
testing the remaining interfaces. 

Census system: Paper-Based Operations Control System (PBOCS); 
Status of testing activities: System development has been divided into 
three major releases, following a preliminary release in preparation 
for a limited end-to-end test in June 2009. Defects identified during 
this test are being reworked. Testing of the first major release, as 
well as an additional limited end-to-end test, are under way. In 
addition, the Bureau is planning and developing software for the 
remaining releases. Program officials state the limited time to 
complete development and testing remains a challenge. 

Census system: Data Access and Dissemination System II; 
Status of testing activities: The system consists of two subsystems, 
each with three iterations of development and testing. For one 
subsystem, the program is testing the second of the three iterations. 
For the other subsystem, the program is developing the second of three 
iterations and plans to begin testing this iteration in early 2010. 
Development and testing is proceeding according to schedule. 

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

[A] Group-quarters validation entails validating addresses identified 
as potential group quarters, such as college residence halls and group 

[End of table] 

The Bureau has also made progress in end-to-end testing, but 
substantial work remains to be completed. For example, the Bureau has 
completed limited end-to-end tests for nonresponse follow-up and group- 
quarters enumeration[Footnote 5] on the Paper-Based Operations Control 
System[Footnote 6] (PBOCS), a work flow management system the Bureau 
developed late in the census cycle when it moved from the HHCs to a 
paper-based approach to nonresponse follow-up and other field 
operations. However, Bureau officials stated that, although they were 
satisfied with the results of the tests, significant additional testing 
will be needed. For example, several critical issues were identified 
during these tests that will need to be resolved and retested. In 
addition, the test was not designed to evaluate the level of system 
performance needed while processing the estimated 48 million housing 
units that will be in the nonresponse-follow-up workload. According to 
the Bureau, a performance test is being designed for the first major 
release; however, detailed plans for this test have not yet been 
completed. Finally, the test was performed with experienced census 
employees, while the system will be used by newer, temporary employees. 
[Footnote 7] 

Given the importance of IT systems to the decennial census, it is 
critical that the Bureau ensure these systems are thoroughly tested. 
Bureau officials have repeatedly stated that the limited amount of time 
remaining will make completing all testing activities challenging. 

The Bureau Needs to Prioritize Remaining Needs for Systems Used to 
Manage Field Data Collection: 

The Bureau faces significant challenges finalizing PBOCS. Most notably, 
the Bureau needs to determine the remaining detailed requirements for 
the system to be developed. As of early September 2009, the Bureau had 
established high-level requirements for its PBOCS but had not yet 
finalized the detailed requirements. High-level requirements describe 
in general terms what functions the system will accomplish, such as 
producing specific management reports on the progress of specific paper-
based operations or checking-out and checking-in groups of census forms 
for shipping or processing. Detailed requirements describe more 
specifically what needs to be done in order to accomplish such 
functions. For PBOCS, such detailed requirements might include, for 
example, which data from which data source should be printed where on a 
specific management report. According to Bureau officials, in the 
absence of such specificity in the requirements for the 2008 dress 
rehearsal, contract programmers with little decennial census experience 
made erroneous assumptions about which data to use when preparing some 
quality control reports. As a result, quality assurance managers were 
unable to rely on the reports for tracking progress. 

In recognition of the serious implications that shortcomings in PBOCS 
would have for the conduct of the 2010 Census and to see whether there 
were additional steps that could be taken to mitigate the outstanding 
risks to successful PBOCS development and testing, in June 2009, the 
Bureau chartered an assessment of PBOCS, chaired by the Bureau's chief 
information officer (CIO). The assessment team reported initially in 
late July 2009 and provided an update the following month. The review 
stated that the PBOCS developers had made a strong effort to involve 
the system stakeholders in the development process. However, the review 
also identified several concerns with PBOCS development. For example, 
the review found and we confirmed that the Bureau could improve its 
requirements management for PBOCS. According to the CIO, the Bureau has 
taken steps to address some of these findings, such as providing 
additional resources for testing and development; however, resolving 
problems found during testing before the systems need to be deployed 
will be a challenge. 

At the end of our review, the Bureau presented evidence of the steps it 
had taken to document and prioritize requirements. We did not assess 
the effectiveness of these steps. Until the Bureau completes the 
detailed requirements for PBOCS, it will not have reasonable assurance 
that PBOCS will meet the program's needs. The Bureau is continuing to 
examine how improvements will be made. 

The Bureau Generally Completed Address Canvassing Ahead of Schedule But 
Went Over Budget: 

A successful census relies on an accurate list of all addresses where 
people live in the country, because it identifies all households that 
are to receive a census questionnaire and serves as a control mechanism 
for following up with households that fail to respond. If the address 
list is inaccurate, people can be missed, counted more than once, or 
included in the wrong location. 

Address canvassing is one of several procedures the Bureau uses to help 
ensure an accurate address list and, because it is based on on-site 
verification, it is particularly important for identifying the 
locations of nontraditional or "hidden" housing units such as converted 
attics and basements. Although these types of dwellings have always 
existed, the large number of foreclosures the nation has recently 
experienced, as well as the natural disasters that have hit the Gulf 
Coast and other regions, have likely increased the number of people 
doubling-up, living in motels, cars, tent cities, and other less 
conventional living arrangements. Such individuals are at greater risk 
of being missed in the census. 

The Bureau conducted address canvassing from March to July 2009. During 
that time, about 135,000 address listers went door to door across the 
country, comparing the housing units they saw on the ground to what was 
listed in the database of their HHCs. Depending on what they observed, 
listers could add, delete, or update the location of housing units. 

Although the projected length of the field operation ranged from nine 
to fourteen weeks, most early local census offices completed the effort 
in less than 10 weeks. Moreover, the few areas that did not finish 
early were delayed by unusual circumstances such as access issues 
created by flooding. The completion rate is a remarkable accomplishment 
given the HHC's troubled history. The testing and improvements the 
Bureau made to the reliability of the HHCs prior to the start of 
address canvassing, including a final field test that was added to the 
Bureau's preparations in December 2008, played a key role in the pace 
of the operation, but other factors, once address canvassing was 
launched, were important as well, including the (1) prompt resolution 
of problems with the HHCs as they occurred and (2) lower than expected 
employee turnover. 

With respect to the prompt resolution of problems, although the 
December 2008 field test indicated that the more significant problems 
affecting the HHCs had been resolved, various glitches continued to 
affect the HHCs in the first month of the operation. For example, we 
were informed by listers or crew leaders in 14 early local census 
offices that they had encountered problems with transmissions, freeze- 
ups, and other problems. Moreover, in 10 early local census offices we 
visited, listers said they had problems using the Global Positioning 
System function on their HHCs to precisely locate housing units. When 
such problems occurred, listers called their crew leaders and the 
Bureau's help desk troubleshooted the problems. When the issues were 
more systemic in nature, such as a software issue, the Bureau was able 
to quickly fix them using software patches. 

Moreover, to obtain an early warning of trouble, the Bureau monitored 
key indicators of the performance of the HHCs such as the number of 
successful and failed HHC transmissions. This approach proved useful as 
Bureau quality control staff were alerted to the existence of a 
software problem when they noticed that the devices were taking a long 
time to close out completed assignment areas. 

The Bureau also took steps to address procedural issues. For example, 
in the course of our field observations, we noticed that in several 
locations listers were not always adhering to training for identifying 
hidden housing units. Specifically, listers were instructed to knock on 
every door and ask, "Are there any additional places in this building 
where people live or could live?" However, we found that listers did 
not always ask this question. On April 28, 2009, we discussed this 
issue with senior Bureau officials. The Bureau, in turn, transmitted a 
message to listers' HHCs emphasizing the importance of following 
training and querying residents if possible. 

Lower than expected attrition rates and listers' availability to work 
more hours than expected also contributed to the Bureau's ability to 
complete the address canvassing operation ahead of schedule. For 
example, the Bureau had planned for 25 percent of new hires to quit 
before, during, or soon after training; however, the national average 
was 16 percent. Bureau officials said that not having to replace 
listers with inexperienced staff accelerated the pace of the operation. 
Additionally, the Bureau assumed that employees would be available 18.5 
hours a week. Instead, they averaged 22.3 hours a week. 

The Bureau's address list at the start of address canvassing consisted 
of 141.8 million housing units. Listers added around 17 million 
addresses and marked about 21 million for deletion because, for 
example, the address did not have a structure. All told, listers 
identified about 4.5 million duplicate addresses, 1.2 million 
nonresidential addresses, and about 690,000 addresses that were 
uninhabitable structures. Importantly, these preliminary results 
represent actions taken during the production phase of address 
canvassing and do not reflect actual changes made to the Bureau's 
master address list as the actions are first subject to a quality 
control check and then processed by the Bureau's Geography Division. 

The preliminary analysis of addresses flagged for add and delete shows 
that the results of the operation (prior to quality control) were 
generally consistent with the results of address canvassing for the 
2008 dress rehearsal. Table 2 compares the add and delete actions for 
the two operations. 

Table 2: Percentage of Add and Delete Lister Actions (Prior to Quality 
Control or Bureau Processing) for 2010 Address Canvassing and 2008 
Dress Rehearsal Address Canvassing: 

2010 Address Canvassing: 10.8%; 
2008 Dress Rehearsal Address Canvassing: 7.3%. 

2010 Address Canvassing: 13.2%; 
2008 Dress Rehearsal Address Canvassing: 15.1%. 

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

[End of table] 

Address Canvassing Costs Exceeded Budget Because of Unanticipated 
Workload and Hiring: 

According to the Bureau's preliminary analysis, the estimated cost for 
address canvassing field operations was $444 million, or $88 million 
(25 percent) more than its initial budget of $356 million.[Footnote 8] 
As shown in table 3, according to the Bureau, the cost overruns were 
because of several factors. 

Table 3: Bureau's Preliminary Analysis of Address Canvassing Costs 
Exceeding Budget: 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Increased Initial Workload; 
Estimated costs (in millions): $41. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Underestimated Quality Control Workload; 
Estimated costs (in millions): $34. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Training Additional Staff; 
Estimated costs (in millions): $7. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Fingerprinting (funded separately); 
Estimated costs (in millions): $6. 

Reasons for exceeding budget: Total; 
Estimated costs (in millions): $88. 

Source: U.S. Census Bureau. 

[End of table] 

One such factor was that the address canvassing cost estimate was not 
comprehensive, which resulted in a cost increase of $41 million. The 
Bureau inadvertently excluded 11 million addresses identified in 
address file updates from the initial address canvassing workload and 
fiscal year 2009 budget. Further, the additional 11 million addresses 
increased the Bureau's quality control workload, where the Bureau 
verifies certain actions taken to correct the address list. 
Specifically, the Bureau failed to anticipate the impact these 
addresses would have on the quality control workload and therefore did 
not revise its cost estimate accordingly. Moreover, under the Bureau's 
procedures, addresses that failed quality control would need to be 
recanvassed, but the Bureau's cost model did not account for the extra 
cost of recanvassing of any addresses. As a result, the Bureau 
underestimated its quality control workload by 26 million addresses 
which resulted in $34 million in additional costs, according to the 

Bringing aboard more staff than was needed also contributed to the cost 
overruns. For example, according to the Bureau's preliminary analysis, 
training additional staff accounted for about $7 million in additional 
costs.[Footnote 9] Bureau officials attributed the additional training 
cost to inviting additional candidates to initial training because of 
concerns that recruiting and hiring staff would be problematic, even 
though (1) the Bureau's staffing goals already accounted for the 
possibility of high turnover and (2) the additional employees were not 
included in the cost estimate or budget. 

The largest field operation will be nonresponse follow-up, when the 
Bureau is to go door to door in an effort to collect data from 
households that did not mail back their census questionnaire. Over 
570,000 enumerators will need to be hired for that operation. To better 
manage the risk of staffing difficulties while simultaneously 
controlling costs, several potential lessons learned can be drawn from 
the Bureau's experience during address canvassing. For example, we 
found that the staffing authorization and guidance provided to some 
local census managers were unclear and did not specify that there was 
already a cushion in the hiring goals for local census offices to 
account for potential turnover. Also, basing the number of people 
invited to initial training on factors likely to affect worker hiring 
and retention, such as the local employment rate, could help the Bureau 
better manage costs. 

According to Bureau officials, they are reviewing the results from 
address canvassing to determine whether they need to revisit the 
staffing strategy for nonresponse follow-up and have already made some 
changes. For example, in recruiting candidates, when a local census 
office reaches 90 percent of its qualified applicant goal, it is to 
stop blanket recruiting and instead focus its efforts on areas that 
need more help, such as tribal lands. However, in hiring candidates, 
the officials pointed out that they are cautious not to underestimate 
resource needs for nonresponse follow-up based on address canvassing 
results because they face different operational challenges in that 
operation than for address canvassing. For example, for nonresponse 
follow-up, the Bureau needs to hire enumerators who can work in the 
evenings when people are more likely to be at home and who can 
effectively deal with reluctant respondents, whereas with address 
canvassing, there was less interaction with households and the 
operation could be completed during the day. 

Address Canvassing Cost Overruns Are Symptomatic of Weaknesses with 
Cost Estimation Efforts: 

Problems with accurately estimating the cost of address canvassing are 
indicative of long-standing weaknesses in the Bureau's ability to 
develop credible and accurate cost estimates for the 2010 Census. 
Accurate cost estimates are essential to a successful census because 
they help ensure that the Bureau has adequate funds and that Congress, 
the administration, and the Bureau itself can have reliable information 
on which to base decisions. However, in our past work, we noted that 
the Bureau's estimate lacked detailed documentation on data sources and 
significant assumptions, and was not comprehensive because it did not 
include all costs.[Footnote 10] Following best practices from our Cost 
Estimating and Assessment Guide, such as defining necessary resources 
and tasks, could have helped the Bureau recognize the need to update 
address canvassing workload and other operational assumptions, 
resulting in a more reliable cost estimate.[Footnote 11] 

Given the Bureau's past difficulties in developing credible and 
accurate cost estimates, we are concerned about the reliability of the 
figures that were used to support the 2010 budget, especially the costs 
of nonresponse follow-up, which is estimated to cost $2.7 billion. We 
have discussed the cost estimate for nonresponse follow-up with Bureau 
officials, and they have said they are looking to see how foreclosures 
and vacant housing units might affect the nonresponse follow-up 
workload. In addition, Bureau officials said they will analyze address 
canvassing data and determine if there are any implications for future 

Nevertheless, there still remains a great deal of uncertainty around 
the final cost of the 2010 Census. In part, this is because of changes 
made to the census design after April 2008, when the Bureau reverted to 
a paper-based data collection method for nonresponse follow-up in 
response to the performance problems with the HHCs. The uncertainty 
also stems from the fact that the assumptions used to develop the 
revised cost estimate were not tested during the 2008 dress rehearsal. 
According to budget documents, after the decision to return to a paper- 
based nonresponse follow-up, the life cycle cost estimate increased by 
over $3 billion dollars. 

Moving forward, it will be important for the Bureau to ensure the 
reliability of the 2020 cost estimate, and the Bureau has already taken 
several actions in that regard. For example, based on recommendations 
from our June 2008 report, the Bureau plans to train its staff on cost 
estimation skills, including conducting uncertainty analysis. In 
addition, the Bureau is developing the Decennial Budget Integration 
Tool (DBiT), which according to the Bureau, should consolidate budget 
information and enable the Bureau to better document its cost 
estimates. Officials said that DBiT is capturing actual fiscal year 
2009 costs, which will be used to estimate the life cycle cost for the 
2020 census. However, officials also said that DBiT needs further 
testing, and may not be fully used until the 2012 budget. 

Bureau Needs to Improve Its Policies and Procedures for Fingerprinting 
Temporary Employees: 

To better screen its workforce of hundreds of thousands of temporary 
census workers, the Bureau plans to fingerprint its temporary workforce 
for the first time in the 2010 Census.[Footnote 12] In past censuses, 
temporary workers were only subject to a name background check that was 
completed at the time of recruitment. The Federal Bureau of 
Investigation (FBI) is to provide the results of a name background 
check when temporary workers are first recruited. At the end of the 
workers' first day of training, Bureau employees who have received 
around 2 hours of fingerprinting instruction are to capture two sets of 
ink fingerprint cards. The cards are then sent to the Bureau's National 
Processing Center in Jeffersonville, Indiana, to be scanned and 
electronically submitted to the FBI. If the results show a criminal 
record that makes an employee unsuitable for employment, the Bureau is 
to either terminate the person immediately or place the individual in 
nonworking status until the matter is resolved. If the first set of 
prints are unclassifiable, the National Processing Center is to send 
the FBI the second set of prints. 

However, fingerprinting during address canvassing was problematic. Of 
the over 162,000 employees hired for the operation, 22 percent--or 
approximately 35,700 workers--had unclassifiable prints that the FBI 
could not process. The FBI determined that the unclassifiable prints 
were generally the result of errors that occurred when the prints were 
first made. Factors affecting the quality of the prints included 
difficulty in first learning how to effectively capture the prints and 
the adequacy of the Bureau's training. Further, the workspace and 
environment for taking fingerprints was unpredictable, and factors such 
as the height of the workspace on which the prints were taken could 
affect the legibility of the prints. 

Consistent with FBI guidance, the Bureau relied solely on the results 
of the name background check for the nearly 36,000 employees with 
unclassifiable prints.[Footnote 13] However, it is possible that more 
than 200 people with unclassifiable prints had disqualifying criminal 
records but still worked, and had contact with the public during 
address canvassing.[Footnote 14] Indeed, of the prints that could be 
processed, fingerprint results identified approximately 1,800 temporary 
workers (1.1 percent of total hires) with criminal records that name 
check alone failed to identify. Of the 1,800 workers with criminal 
records, approximately 750 (42 percent) were terminated or were further 
reviewed because the Bureau determined their criminal records--which 
included crimes such as rape, manslaughter, and child abuse--
disqualified them from census employment. 

Projecting these percentages to the 35,700 temporary employees with 
unclassifiable prints, it is possible that more than 200 temporary 
census employees might have had criminal records that would have made 
them ineligible for census employment. Applying these same percentages 
to the approximately 600,000 people the Bureau plans to fingerprint for 
nonresponse follow-up, unless the problems with fingerprinting are 
addressed, we estimate that approximately 785 employees with 
unclassifiable prints could have disqualifying criminal records but 
still end up working for the Bureau.[Footnote 15] 

Aside from public safety concerns, there are cost issues as well. The 
FBI charged the Bureau $17.25 per person for each background check, 
whether or not the fingerprints were classifiable. 

The Bureau stated that it has taken steps to improve image quality for 
fingerprints captured in future operations by refining instruction 
manuals and providing remediation training on proper procedures. In 
addition, the Bureau is considering activating a feature on the 
National Processing Center's scanners that can check the legibility of 
the image and thus prevent poor quality prints from reaching the FBI. 
These are steps in the right direction. As a further contingency, it 
might also be important for the Bureau to develop a policy for re- 
fingerprinting employees to the extent that both cards cannot be read. 

The Bureau Used Enhanced Training and Guidance for Canvassing Hurricane 
Affected Areas: 

The scale of the destruction in those areas affected Hurricanes 
Katrina, Rita, and Ike made address canvassing in parts of Mississippi, 
Louisiana, and Texas, especially challenging (see fig. 1). Hurricane 
Katrina alone destroyed or made uninhabitable an estimated 300,000 
homes. Recognizing the difficulties associated with address canvassing 
in these areas because of shifting and hidden populations and changes 
to the housing stock, the Bureau, partly in response to recommendations 
made in our June 2007 report,[Footnote 16] developed supplemental 
training materials for natural disaster areas to help listers identify 
addresses where people are, or may be, living when census 
questionnaires are distributed. For example, the materials noted the 
various situations listers might encounter, such as people living in 
trailers, homes marked for demolition, converted buses and recreational 
vehicles, and nonresidential space such as storage areas above 
restaurants. The training material also described the clues that could 
alert listers to the presence of non-traditional places where people 
are living and provided a script they should follow when interviewing 
residents on the possible presence of hidden housing units. 

Figure 1: Locating and Counting People Displaced By Storms Presents A 

[Refer to PDF for image: two photographs of dwellings] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

Additional steps taken by the city of New Orleans also helped the 
Bureau overcome the challenge of canvassing neighborhoods devastated by 
Hurricane Katrina. As depicted in fig. 2 below, city officials replaced 
the street signs even in abandoned neighborhoods. This assisted listers 
in locating the blocks they were assigned to canvass and expedited the 
canvassing process in these deserted blocks. 

Figure 2: Replacement Street Signs Facilitated Address Canvassing in 
New Orleans: 

[See PDF for image: photograph] 

Source: GAO. 

[End of figure] 

To further ensure a quality count in the hurricane affected areas, the 
Bureau plans to hand-deliver an estimated 1.2 million questionnaires 
(and simultaneously update the address list) to housing units in much 
of southeast Louisiana and south Mississippi that appear inhabitable, 
even if they do not appear on the address list updated by listers 
during address canvassing. Finally, the Bureau stated that it must 
count people where they are living on Census Day and emphasized that if 
a housing unit gets rebuilt and people move back, then that is where 
those people will be counted. However, if they are living someplace 
else, then they will be counted where they are living on Census Day. 

Concluding Observations: 

The Bureau has made remarkable progress in improving its overall 
readiness for 2010, with substantial strides being made in the 
management of its IT systems and other areas. That said, as I noted 
throughout this statement, considerable challenges and uncertainties 
lie ahead. While the decennial is clearly back on track, many things 
can happen over the next few months, and keeping the entire enterprise 
on plan continues to be a daunting challenge fraught with risks. 

Mr. Chairman and members of this Subcommittee, this concludes my 
statement. I would be happy to respond to any questions that you might 
have at this time. 

GAO Contacts: 

If you have any questions on matters discussed in this statement, 
please contact Robert N. Goldenkoff at (202) 512-2757 or by e-mail at Other key contributors to this testimony include 
Steven Berke, Virginia Chanley, Benjamin Crawford, Jeffrey DeMarco, 
Dewi Djunaidy, Vijay D'Souza, Elizabeth Fan, Ronald Fecso, Amy Higgins, 
Richard Hung, Kirsten Lauber, Jason Lee, Andrea Levine, Signora May, Ty 
Mitchell, Naomi Mosser, Catherine Myrick, Lisa Pearson, David Powner, 
David Reed, Jessica Thomsen, Jonathan Ticehurst, Shaunyce Wallace, 
Timothy Wexler, and Katherine Wulff. 

[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, 2010 Census: Fundamental Building Blocks of a Successful 
Enumeration Face Challenges, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 5, 

[3] Nonresponse follow-up is the largest field operation which entails 
enumerators following up with nonrespondents through personal 
interviews to complete paper questionnaires. 

[4] GAO, Information Technology: Census Bureau Testing of 2010 
Decennial Systems Can Be Strengthened, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 5, 
2009) and GAO, Information Technology: Census Bureau Needs to 
Strengthen Testing of 2010 Decennial Systems, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 5, 

[5] Group-quarters enumeration entails enumerators collecting 
information from people living in places such as college residence 
halls, prisons and group homes. 

[6] The PBOCS includes IT systems and infrastructure needed to support 
the use of paper forms for operations such as group quarters 
enumeration and nonresponse follow-up. 

[7] According to the Bureau, an additional limited end-to-end test that 
is under way is utilizing clerical staff from local census offices. 

[8] Address canvassing costs for field operations include training, 
work hours, and mileage for temporary field staff. These costs do not 
include recruiting, large block canvassing, office infrastructure, 
management or technical support staff, IT contracts, and partnership 
program or communication campaign activities. 

[9] Officials clarified that training costs should exclude training 
hours spent for fingerprinting and conducting 4 hours of actual 
production work as part of training. 

[10] 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). 

[11] GAO, GAO Cost Estimating And Assessment Guide: Best Practices for 
Developing and Managing Capital Program Costs, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: March 2009). 

[12] The National Crime Prevention and Privacy Compact, enacted in 
1998, generally requires that fingerprints be submitted with all 
requests for criminal history record checks for noncriminal justice 
purposes; 42 U.S.C. § 14616. For the 2000 Census, the FBI did not have 
the capacity to timely process the fingerprints of Census’s temporary 
workforce, so they were subject to only a name background check. 

[13] The Bureau will refingerprint employees with unclassifiable prints 
if they are rehired for another operation. 

[14] The Bureau uses its adjudication criteria to determine if 
applicants' criminal history background present an unacceptable risk to 
the Census. 

[15] The approximately 600,000 workers to be fingerprinted for 
nonresponse follow-up include over 570,000 enumerators and other field 
staff, such as crew leaders and field operation supervisors. 

[16] GAO, 2010 Census: Census Bureau Has Improved the Local Update of 
Census Addresses Program, but Challenges Remain, [hyperlink,] (Washington, D.C.: June 14, 

[End of section] 

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